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Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) 'Astronomy Stream' Students Work in Research for Publication

freshman research initiative


5 May 2011

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.

1st Annual Texas Astronomy Undergraduate Research Symposium to be Held September 23, 2011

ugrad symposium

Huge success! See: photos and schedule

5 September 2011

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 Wins Outstanding Senior Award


Binary Quasars

10 May 2011

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, Michelle Rascati, George Miller, and Jennifer Ellis win 2011 Departmental Undergraduate Awards

award winners

Top: Ellis, Caldwell
Bottom: Miller, Rascati

5 May 2011

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 resesearch observatory.

Caroline Caldwell and James Diekmann, III received 2011/2012 grants from the Walton Endowment to conduct research at McDonald Observatory.

14 June 2012
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