Undergraduate Freshmen are conducting independent research designed for publication through the University's Freshman
Research Initiative (FRI). One of the program's 'Astronomy Streams', supervised by Professor Don Winget and Research Scientist
Mike Montgomery, conducts research on White Dwarfs, objects at the spectacular end of stellar life. A myriad of interesting
problems can be explored with White Dwarfs, says Dr. Montgomery, such as the age of the Milky Way disk, and how dense,
stellar plasma crystallizes. While leading edge, FRI students are not a small group. 25% percent of the
College of Natural Sciences freshman class
participates. The astronomy group has worked in ground breaking published research. Says Mike, "When you expect a
lot of students, that's when you get a lot back." A second 'Astronomy Stream', "Cosmic Dawn," uses one of the world's largest
computers to simulate the early universe. Freshman can work with Professor Paul Shapiro to analyze how the first
galaxies formed, using visualizations of the large scale structure of the universe.
The University of Texas at Austin Department of Astronomy will be hosting the first annual Texas Astronomy
Undergraduate Research Symposium on Friday, Sep. 23, 2011. Undergraduates from central Texas are
invited to give 10 minute talks on their astronomy research, based on either their summer or academic year
research projects. Other students, postdocs, and faculty are invited to attend and hear about the first-rate
research being done by these undergraduates.
Krista Smith is the winner of the Outstanding Senior Award for 2011. Krista began a search for binary quasars in
2008 with Dr. Greg Shields, visually inspecting 25,000 candidates and identifying 150. Her work, published in the
June 2010 Astrophysical Journal, on which she is the first author, has received many citiations in the refereed
literature. Several groups are conducting studies of her objects. Krista has presented the work at three meetings of the AAS.
Krista is co-author on two other published papers, a submitted paper, and has given scientific seminars at UCSC, UC
Berkeley, and Rice University. A mulitple award winner, she won the hightly competitive George Mitchell Award for Academic
Excellence in 2010.
Caroline Caldwell and Michelle Rascati are winners of the Karl G. Henize Endowed Scholarship for 2011. Caroline, a summer
intern at McDonald Observatory's Visitors Center, worked with Beverley Wills on the optical polarization of blazars, presenting
a poster at the January AAS meeting. She is now working on Jupiter exoplanet analogues with Michael Endl. Michelle Rascati
developed analysis software to investigate the chemistry of young stars and protoplanetary systems with Neal Evans and Joel
Green, participating in a paper published in ApJ Letters. The Board of Visitors Scholarship has been awarded to George Miller
and Jennifer Ellis. George is co-author of two refereed papers on long period planets orbiting binary stars, a surprising discovery
by an international team, with Don Winget and Mike Montgomery. Jennifer Ellis, working with the same team, developed a statistical
model using white dwarf pulsation modes, that is the foundation for follow-up observations in a planet hunt.
Other Awards & Events
In addition to the recent Board of Visitors award, George Miller has
been awarded a 2011/2012 Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship.
The UEPS program is considered one of the most notable scholarship
offers for UT students.
Harrison Stinnet, a second-year astronomy student, was awarded the
McDonald Observatory's Summer Student Internship. He spent his summer
in the mountains of Ft. Davis hosting tours, staffing the telescope
during Star Parties, and working with the astronomers at our world-class
Caroline Caldwell and James Diekmann, III received
2011/2012 grants from the Walton Endowment to conduct research at McDonald Observatory.