There are many opportunities for students to become involved in research projects on campus during the semester or over the summer. Here are a few examples of these opportunities:
In the Spring of 2015, the Goizueta Foundation gifted Agnes Scott with a STEM Scholars Program grant that allowed students majoring in science related fields to work with a professor of their choice. One past project in Astronomy was with Dr. Chris De Pree to study transits of exoplanets using the S.A.R.A telescopes and study W49a to see flickering from the data taken 10 years ago and now using the Very Large Array(VLA). A past Physics project was with Dr. Nicole Ackerman, who worked with students on a Python simulation that developed a lens for Cherenkov Radiation measurement. Another Physics project was with Dr. Amy Lovell, who worked with students on a noise study on the air handling units in Alston, to look at possible solutions to reduce the machine noise heard between Alston and McCain Library, as well as noise audible on the interior patio of McCain. They also studied the solar arrays on Bradley and tracked the relationship between atmospheric conditions (from our weather station) and solar panel efficiency.
Chris De Pree studies star formation in the Milky Way and other galaxies (using the EVLA radio telescope), and exoplanetary transits (using the SARA-North and SARA-South optical telescopes). De Pree and has several active projects that are structured to involve student work. Interested students should have taken Astronomy 120 and 121, as well as Physics 110-111. Familiarity with computers is helpful, but not essential, as you will be able to learn the software needed to analyze the data. Observations are made with the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA) in Socorro, New Mexico and the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA) telescopes located at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) in Arizona, Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) in Chile and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (RM) in the Canary Islands.
Projects typically take an academic year to complete, so if you are interested, please make contact early in the fall semester. Some current projects: (1) observation of known exoplanetary transits to detect the presence of multiple planet systems, (2) detection of exoplanetary transits in systems identified by their radial velocity curves (Transit Ephemeris Refinement Monitoring Survey), (3) observations of ultracompact HII regions with the EVLA in Socorro, NM. Student projects can involve data acquisition (observing), data reduction (making images from raw data), data analysis, or more generally, all three. For more details, see Chris De Pree's personal webpage.
Another research opportunity for students with working a laser radar to measure properties of the atmosphere. The EARL (Eye-safe Atmospheric Research Lidar) system located in the Bradley Observatory has the capacity to detect and measure both weather phenomena and pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere. This instrument uses a 523 nm wavelength laser to collect data about the atmosphere above Agnes Scott. The laser beam is sent up through a hatch in the roof of the Observatory. Light from this laser beam scatters off of particles in the atmosphere, and some of the light scatters at 180° and returns straight back where it came from. That light is then detected by a receiver system. There are a wide variety of projects available for students interested in laser science, data analysis and/or atmospheric science. Read more about this project here.
Dr. Ackerman's research focuses on biomedical applications of Cerenkov radiation. Her group works with computer simulations using Geant4 to predict the light produced by radioactive decays and with low light imaging systems. There are opportunities to work with programming (in C++ and Python), optics, radioactive sources, electronics, and image analysis. Certain projects are well-suited to students interested in particle physics, engineering, medicine, and computer science. For further information, see Dr. Ackerman's webpage.