Renata Violante Wins the Karl G. Henize Endowed Scholarship
13 June 2011
Astronomy senior Renata Violante is this year's winner of the Karl G.
Henize Endowed Scholarship. The Karl G. Henize Endowed Scholarship is
awarded annually to a junior or senior student who intends to pursue a
graduate degree in Astronomy. Renata intends to pursue a graduate
degree in Astronomy after she finishes her B.S. in Astronomy and Physics
here at UT Austin in December.
Renata is also this year's recepient of the 2012 Board of Visitor
Undergraduate Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a junior or
senior astronomy student for excellent overall performance.
Renata has worked with Dr. Sneden to derive new, extremely accurate
abundances of the very heavy elements yttrium and zirconium (atomic
numbers 39 and 40). These are critical elements in assessing the
relative contributions of various neutron-capture nucleosynthesis
scenarios. To accomplish this study, Renata had to learn an entire suite
of spectroscopic analysis tools from scratch, grapple with handling raw
data with a critical eye and understand how stellar line formation
equations can be applied practically. This is a slow process, but Renata
has done very well. The proof of this statement is simple: January's
American Astronomical Society meeting included a poster by R. Violante
et al. titled, ``Improved Yttrium and Zirconium Abundances in Metal-Poor
Stars'', (2012, AAS Meeting Abstracts, 219, \#152.04).
In addition to her research, Dr. Sneden notes that Renata has shown her
keenness for astronomy in other ways, like attending a Space Camp in
high school and assisting at McDonald Observatory. She was also lead
organizer for a group of undergraduates who helped our department
interview candidates for a new faculty slot in the program.
Renata is currently attending an REU at Kitt Peak to broaden her
knowledge of astronomy/physics research.