Undergraduate Summer Research at the IfA
by Jonathan Williams, REU coordinator
|REU students: Jennifer Pollack (from the New College
of Florida), James Wray (Princeton), Jennifer Katz (Columbia), Carolyn
Peruta (Arizona), Desiree Cotto-Figueroa (University of Puerto Rico
at Humacao), Adrienne Dove (University of Missouri-Columbia), Kyle
Dolan (Lawrence University, Wisconsin), Joshua Shiode (Boston University),
Ahia Dye (UH Hilo), and Claire Bendersky (Mount Holyoke). Photo by
The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program
continued for a fifth year in 2005. Funded by a grant from the National
Science Foundation (NSF), this program brings talented undergraduate
physics and astronomy majors from across the country to the IfA.
The students arrive in late May or early June and work with a faculty
mentor on a research project for 10 weeks. They present their results
to the Institute in a one-day seminar in early August and often continue
research at their home institution in the fall. Most students will
also present their work at the national American Astronomical Society
winter conference that will be held in January 2006 in Washington,
There are 23 REU astronomy sites at a range of universities and
observatories throughout the United States, but the allure of Hawaii
and Mauna Kea naturally makes the IfA program extremely popular.
We receive over 200 applications for the 8 to 10 positions available
each year. The students live together in the campus dormitories and
work in a classroom that is temporarily converted to a common workplace.
Attending seminars, making observing runs, and socializing with graduate
students and faculty, they quickly become part of the Institute.
This year, the faculty mentors were Ann Boesgaard, Lysa Chizmadia,
Paul Coleman, Harald Ebeling, Christ Ftaclas, Nader Haghighipour,
Lisa Kewley, Michael Liu, and David Sanders. Research topics ranged
from meteoritics to starburst galaxies. Papers of their work are
posted on the Web at www.ifa.hawaii.edu/reu/2005research/research2005.html
We now have 39 alumni from the program. Past students have gone
on to graduate studies in physics, mathematics, medicine, and of
course, astronomy. Two (Mark Pitts and Trent Dupuy) are among the
current graduate students at the IfA. The NSF supports REU programs
in many scientific disciplines throughout the United States. All
are designed specifically to nurture the next generation of homegrown
scientists, so only U.S. citizens and permanent residents may apply.
One of the current goals of the IfA REU program is to encourage
students from Hawaii, whether they attend school in Hawaii or on
the mainland, to apply. We have obtained an additional three years
of funding from the NSF and hope to be able to continue our program
at the IfA for many more years to come.
|The REU experience doesn't necessarily end in August. For example,
Jennifer Pollack is continuing her study of four hundred galaxies as
her senior thesis at the New College of Florida. Her chief REU mentor,
Lisa Kewley, praised Pollack as "very hard working" and eager to
what is a very difficult subject even for professional astronomers. "I
think the REU program helped Jennifer decide that astronomy is what
she wants to do," Kewley said. She added that the REU program gives
the IfA faculty and the REU students a chance to know each other before
the student decides on a graduate school and before the faculty look
at applications from prospective graduate students, so both benefit.