REU Students’ Research & Presentations

Education



Education REU Students’ Research & Presentations

The AO Research Experience for Undergraduates and Teachers (REUT) program continues to serve as a remarkable program for developing future STEM researchers and teachers. The REUT program, funded by the National Science Foundation, welcomed eight students to the observatory in 2019: Daniel Repp, Fernando Hernández Millet, Gage Siebert, Megan Kenny, Mishaal Iysha Jan, Sophia Salazar, Yamil González Zuanznabar, and Bradley Rivera Muñiz. The on-site program coordinator for the Arecibo Observatory REUT program is Adelfa Vera Rosado.

The participants worked closely with their REUT mentors - all science and engineering staff at the observatory - on a science or engineering project, developing data collection and analysis skills and participating directly in observations using one of the largest radio telescopes in the world. This year, the students worked on projects ranging from system software tools to distant galaxies.

“I got a much better idea of how astronomical research happens,” - Gabe Siebert, REU Student and physics major at University of Wisconsin - Madison.

“I got a much better idea of how astronomical research happens,” said Gabe Siebert, a physics major at University of Wisconsin - Madison. His project, working with Dr. Nipuni Palliyaguru (former AO postdoctoral researcher) and Dr. Benetge Perera (AO research scientist), was a multifrequency study of a millisecond pulsar. “I gained more familiarity with radio astronomy broadly, and pulsars in particular.” “The best parts of the REUT program were observing with the Arecibo telescope throughout the summer, developing deeper scientific and programming skills, forming lifelong friendships with my cohort, and going on all the amazing adventures with them,” explained Megan Kenny, an astrophysics major at West Virginia University. She applied for the AO REUT program because of her love for radio astronomy and after discussing her passion for Heliophysics with her future summer mentor, Dr. Ale Pacini (former AO research associate). Over the summer, she worked with Dr. Pacini and Dr. Shikha Raizada (AO senior scientist) on a project in support of NASA’s Solar Parker Probe.

The best parts of the REUT program were observing with the Arecibo telescope throughout the summer, developing deeper scientific and programming skills, forming lifelong friendships with my cohort, and going on all the amazing adventures with the rest of the students...” - Megan Kenny, REU Student and astrophysics major at West Virginia University

Dr. Pedrina Terra dos Santos and Dr. Christiano Brum, research scientists at AO in collaboration with Dr. Caitano da Silva of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, served as mentors for Sophia Salazar, producing a systematic survey of lightning-induced electron density in the lower ionosphere using the Incoherent Scatter Radar at Arecibo Observatory. For the first time, correlated changes in that density with strong thunderstorms were observed at AO. Dr. Terra dos Santos emphasized how great it is to work with students, including Sophia. “She did a great job and was very dedicated,” Dr. Terra dos Santos said. “It’s surprising how much the students can improve every day, especially when they embrace the project and go out of their comfort zone.”


It’s surprising how much the students can improve every day, especially when they embrace the project and go out of their comfort zone.” - Dr. Pedrina Terra dos Santos, Research Scientist at AO

Dr. Sean Marshall, a postdoctoral researcher at AO and REUT mentor for Daniel Repp confirmed, “I think it's neat to see how in ten weeks, the students go from having no previous experience with radar, to helping us do the observations and working on an advanced research project.”

“I think it's neat to see how in ten weeks, the students go from having no previous experience with radar, to helping us do the observations and working on an advanced research project.” - Dr. Sean Marshall, a postdoctoral researcher at AO and REUT mentor for Daniel Repp

The REUT students will have presented their research at six different professional conferences by the end of 2020: AAS, AGU, SHINE, GMIS, ERN, and DPS. Attendance at these conferences provides REUT students with the opportunity to share their work with the larger community, make new connections in the field, and explore an even wider range of research in their area of interest. Fernando M. Hernández Millet, who worked with Jorge Herrera, a Software Engineer at AO to develop a Diesel Consumption Monitoring & Reporting tool, expressed, “My experience during the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM (ERN 2020) was one of great growth on a professional and personal level. I had the opportunity to meet several people in different STEM areas, including my areas Computer Science, Biology, and Physics; and whose research was of utmost importance and innovation.”

Megan Kenny had a similar experience when she presented her research at SHINE. “Being at SHINE solidified that the heliophysics community is one I want to remain a part of.” She added, “Further, my time at AO and SHINE made it clear to me that I wanted to go on to graduate school, and I am more than pleased to say that I will start at CU Boulder in the Fall.”



A unique component of the REUT program at AO is the opportunity for development for STEM teachers. Bradley Rivera Muñiz is an upper school mathematics teacher and instructional coach at Robinson School in San Juan. He worked with the AO Director of Projects, Sujeily Santiago, and Dr. Anne Virkki, Head of Planetary Radar at AO, to develop a curriculum in astronomy for high school students.

The project has since been put into practice. “I have been implementing that curriculum I developed into the STAR Academy at Arecibo, which is a semester-long college prep program for 9th through 12th graders in Puerto Rico, funded by NASA.” Rivera further explained that the program “teaches the basics of astronomy and programming in Python, and provides mentorship in research projects.”

Rivera noted, “the REUT program motivated me to pursue a doctoral degree in education, with the hope of being able to contribute to the development of STEM education, not only on my island, but at the global scale.”

The REUT program is funded by the National Science Foundation to support active research participation by undergraduate students. The Arecibo Observatory was one of the first astronomy REU sites, and has been hosting the program since 1987, though AO has operated undergraduate internship programs since 1972.



Project Title REUT Mentor(s)
3D Shape Modeling of Asteroid 2015 DP155 Daniel Repp Sean Marshall
Diesel Consumption Monitoring & Reporting Tool Fernando Hernández Millet Jorge L. Herrera
Multifrequency Single-Pulse Analysis of Millisecond Pulsar J1022+1001 Gage Siebert Nipuni Palliyaguru, Bentege Perera
Interplanetary Scintillation Measurements at Arecibo Observatory in support of Parker Solar Probe 2nd Encounter Megan Kenny Alessandra Abe Pacini, Shikha Raizada
Radio Recombination Line observations Toward Massive Star Forming Region W51A Mishaal Iysha Jan Anish Roshi
First Survey of Lightning Effects in the Lower Ionosphere over the Arecibo Observatory Sophia Salazar Pedrina Santos Christiano Brum Caitano da Silva (External)
Clock Comparator System Version 3 Yamil González Zuaznabar Luis Quintero Félix Fernández
STAR Academy: Space and Planetary Sciences for High School Students Bradly Rivera Muñiz Sujeily Santiago

Article written by Dr. Tracy Becker - AO Collaborator / SwRI Research Scientist Contact: tbecker@swri.edu


Arecibo Media Contact
Ricardo Correa
Universidad Ana G. Mendez (UAGM)
787-878-2612 ext. 615
rcorrea@naic.edu

Co-Principal Investigator of the REUT Program
Dr. Anne Virkki
Arecibo Observatory
avirkki@naic.edu

Keywords: arecibo, observatory, REUT, REU, teachers, undergraduate, students, research, experience, virkki, rivera, hernandez, kely, STARS, program, software, engineering, stem, agu, shine, boulder, ern, dps, aas, raizada,