2018 REU&T Recap

August 3, 2018

From the left to right: José Pérez (Teacher, CROEV), Hillary Bermúdez (Teacher, Recent graduate from University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez Campus), Dianaly Cortés (University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras Campus), Krystal Medina (University of Puerto Rico - Arecibo Campus), Mathilde Rosi-Marshall (University of Virginia), Riley McGlasson (Macalester College), Brandon Smith (Penn State University), Margaret Allard (Smith College), Brynn Presler-Marshall (Agnes Scott College), and Adelfa Vera – Graduate student at Universidad del Turabo and our REUT program coordinator.

On Friday, August 3, the students from the summer program Research Experience for Undergraduates & Teachers, better known as REUT, presented their work to their mentors and the rest of the Arecibo Observatory (AO) staff. During this summer, undergraduate students and teachers selected for the program worked with staff scientists on projects related to ongoing research or instrumentation development.

Participants were exposed to the interdisciplinary character of AO's unique research facility through lectures by the staff and visiting scientists, seminar series, tours of the observatory facilities and frequent informal discussions with staff and scientists. Participants also had the opportunity to conduct hands-on observing with the Arecibo telescope.

"One of the peaks of my summer was witnessing real science research in action because I never had the opportunity of experiencing hands-on research out of my field of study." - Hillary Bermudez 2018 REUT Participant

Students conducted a wide variety of research projects from different topics including pulsars, gravitational waves, Upper atmosphere, asteroids, engineering, galaxies, data management, and educational curriculum development. “I really got a better idea of what I can do to contribute to the atmospheric science community. I now understand the inner workings of a community of scientists and how they interact with other scientists in a professional environment", said Brandon Smith, 2018 REU participant from Penn State University.

It is very rewarding to see the difference the REU experience makes in the students’ life and professional development, and the commitment all mentors and staff have every year to make this a successful program” - Dr. Andres DiazPrincipal Investigator of the REUT program and professor at Universidad Metropolitana (UMET) - Recinto de Cupey.

This time, the students had the opportunity to receive training on Project Management. This is currently a highly demanded set of professional skills both in the Industry as well in the Academia. “No matter if you are pursuing a career as a research scientist, as an engineer or as an entrepreneur, developing the skills to perform as a knowledgeable project manager will help you to get you and your team effectively from A to B. Project variables such as Scope, Cost, Schedule, and Quality could become your worst enemies without a proper literacy on this topic.” said Jorge L. Herrera, Software Engineer at AO’s Computer Department and mentor of student Krystal Medina.

In addition, the students had the opportunity to participate in activities that are meant to supplement their research experience with in-depth, educational, cultural, and social experiences, so that the students’ learning and growth over the summer transcend the academic field. The educational activities were chosen to promote active learning, usually from a tour or lecture, and can cover a wide variety of topics like history, art, nature, etc.

Milk Festival @ Hatillo

At the milk festival in Hatillo the students had the opportunity to see the process of cow milking, and to go on a tour to a local dairy farm and learn about the process of maintaining the cows, milking, processing the product, and delivering fresh milk daily. They also tasted Puerto Rican cuisine like “alcapurrias”, “bacalaítos”, “limbers” while enjoying the local artisans and music.

Tanamá Tour

With the help of experienced explorers, students got to dive right into the wonders of the Tanamá river in Utuado. They hiked down towards the river, learning about the flora in our surrounding, including some endemic species. Once in the river, we learned about the geology of the rocks around us, some history of the taínos, and visited an open cave. They also had the chance to make a 10-feet jump into the river and see a petroglyph.

Toro Negro

At Toro Negro State Forest, students hiked for an hour through the forest, taking in the flora and fauna diversity, to get to the observation tower. There, they had a 360⁰ view of the forest at 3,500 feet above sea level.

Cueva del Indio

Students visited El Yunque National Rainforest as part of an arrangement made with the coordinator of the REU program in El Verde Field Station in el Yunque. They gave students a tour around their field station and through part of the forest, while explaining the biology research they conduct there.

Cueva del Indio

Cueva del Indio in Arecibo, where students enjoyed one of the most beautiful views in town, as well as learn the cinematic history of the place.

Bioluminescent bay tour in Vieques

Bioluminescent bay tour in Vieques, the most conserved and impressive bio-bay in Puerto Rico, where students learned about the microorganisms responsible for the natural phenomenon, and enjoyed the astounding view.

In cultural activities, the students were exposed to the Puerto Rican culture by means of our customs, gastronomy, language, arts, music, etc.

Social outings encompassed aspects of educational and cultural nature and have the ultimate goal to promote interaction among the students, with the mentors and staff, to create a strong bond as peers and friends.

“I see the REUT program as an invaluable opportunity for anyone who wants to pursue a career in science and research, or education of them, to peek into life in science, and find what an adventure it can be!” - Dr. Anne Virkki Co-Principal Investigator of the REUT program and Head of Planetary Radar Team

The Arecibo Observatory has been conducting a summer program for students since 1972. In 1987 the NSF created the REU program of which the Arecibo Observatory was part. Since its inception, more than 300 students have participated, most of whom have completed masters and doctorates, actively participate in the STEM research program and/or are working in related fields. Alumni of the program that were later involved with the AO include Martha Haynes, Jim Cordes, Jim Breakall, Robert Hanisch, Joe Lazio, Margaret Hanson, Sixto Gonzalez, Margaret Meixner and Jacqueline Hewitt.

List of Research Projects


  • "The Search for Gravitational Waves” by Juan Lebrón under the mentorship of Dr. Nipuni Palliyaguru
  • Analyzing Neutral Hydrogen Absorption Profiles of 25 AGM” by Dianaly Cortés under the mentorship of Dr. Kristen Jones
  • In Search of 150km Echoes at Mid-Latitudes” by Mathilde Rosi-Marshall under the mentorship of Dr. Eliana Nossa
  • New Microcontroller Unit Improving Stability and Functionality of the Optical Chopper for Atmospheric LIDAR” by Margaret Allard under the mentorship of Dr. Jens Lautenbach and Eng. Luis Quintero
  • Investigation of the Effects of a Geomagnetic Storm on the E and F Regions of the Ionosphere” by Brandon Smith under the mentorship of Dr. Shika Raizada and Dr. Christiano Brum
  • Physical Characterization of 12 Asteroids Using Planetary Radar” by Brynn Presler-Marshall under the mentorship of Dr. Anne Virkki
  • MIDAS: The Physical Modeling of a Potentially Hazardous Contact Binary Asteroid” by Riley McGlasson under the mentorship of Dr. Sean Marshall and Dr. Flaviane Venditti


  • Prototype Design of an Online Catalog for Research Project's Data Management at the Arecibo Observatory” by Krystal Medina Ríos under the mentorship of Eng. Jorge L. Herrera
  • Planetary, Astronomy, Photonics and Atmospheric Sciences in Space Science (PAPAS^3) Curriculum by José Pérez under the guidance from each scientific department and the SVC staff
  • PAAPR: STEAM Curriculum” by Hillary Bermúdez under the guidance from each scientific department and the SVC staff

REU Program Contact, Co-PI
Dr. Anne Virkki
787-878-2612 ext. 337

REU Program Contact, PI
Dr. Andres Diaz

Keywords: UCF, UMET, AO, Arecibo, Observatory,REU, REUT, recap, 2018, Astronomy, Planetary, Engineering, Research, experience, undergraduates, teachers