Category Archives: Research

Prof. Koopmann Awarded NSF Grant: The Undergraduate ALFALFA Team

Associate Professor Rebecca Koopmann has been awarded a $437,883 grant from the National Science Foundation for three years to support the Undergraduate ALFALFA Team (UAT) project. Koopmann leads the UAT, a consortium of 19 undergraduate-focused institutions committed to develop undergraduate research opportunities within the Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA (ALFALFA) survey, a major radio astronomy observational survey led by astronomers Riccardo Giovanelli and Martha Haynes of Cornell University. The UAT will build on the infrastructure and enhanced faculty skill set developed during the previous grant period (NSF AST-0724918), which successfully involved more than 150 undergraduates and 22 faculty mentors (~ 50% women). Core components include an annual group workshop at Arecibo, observing runs for several groups per year at Arecibo, a summer student research stipend program supporting 8 students per year culminating in a presentation at a national meeting, and funding to provide computers to each Team school. Multiple Union College students have participated to date in ALFALFA research and activities. See for example: Union Students Observe at Arecibo and 2012 Workshop

A summary of the grant may be found at this site.

Professor LaBrake Presents Results at Accelerator Conference

Professor LaBrake presents a poster coauthored by Professor Vineyard and three Union students at CAARI 2012, the 22nd International Conference on the Applications of Accelerators in Research and Industry in Fort Worth, Texas.
Professor LaBrake presents a poster coauthored by Professor Vineyard and three Union students at CAARI 2012, the 22nd International Conference on the Applications of Accelerators in Research and Industry in Fort Worth, Texas.

Scott LaBrake, Senior Lecturer and Accelerator Manager in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, presented a poster titled “Construction of a Scattering Chamber for Ion-Beam Analysis of Environmental Materials in Undergraduate Physics Research” at CAARI 2012 the 22nd International Conference on the Applications of Accelerators in Research and Industry in Fort Worth, Texas, in August. A paper of the same title was submitted for the conference proceedings. Michael Vineyard, the Frank and Marie Louise Bailey Professor of Physics, and three Union students were co-authors on the paper.

International Astronomy Meeting at Union July 8-11, 2012

Prof. Koopmann organized and hosted an international group of astronomers for the Star Formation and Gas Reservoirs in Nearby Groups and Clusters
Conference from July 8-11, 2012. Prof. Koopmann received funding from the Skidmore Union Network (NSF ADVANCE grant, PI Brenda Johnson) to gather an international group of astrophysicists to discuss the latest results on the evolution of galaxies relatively near the Milky Way. The meeting focused on the observed star formation properties and gas content (the raw material for star formation) of galaxies in nearby relatively high density regions (groups and clusters), and the current theoretical understanding of the dominant physical mechanisms at work in the conversion of their gas to stars. The invited speakers were Michael Balogh (U. Waterloo), Greg Bryan (Columbia U.), Henry Ferguson (Space Telescope Science Institute), Christine Jones (Harvard U.), Martha Haynes (Cornell U.), Robert Kennicutt (Cambridge Institute of Astronomy, UK), and Ann Zabludoff (U. Arizona).

There were 73 attendees, including ~30 from international institutions (including Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Germany, Italy, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland). 14 were undergraduates, including 2 Union students: Halley Darling, ’13, and Lucas Viani, ’14.
A well-known attendee was Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose research interests include unusually active star-formation in galaxies in dense environments. He spent time with student attendees and interacted and posed for pictures with Union summer research students who recognized him during the lunch in Wold Atrium.

Halley Darling, ’13, and Lucas Viani, ’14, each presented posters during the conference about their multi-year research projects with Koopmann on the gas and star formation properties of a nearby group of galaxies.

Many Union staff helped with the conference. Special thanks to Colleen Palleschi, Halley Darling, Lucas Viani, Scott LaBrake, Paul Debiase,
Cynthia Martin, Mina Evtimova, Joyce Chabot, John Sheehan, Judy Manchester, Gary Olsen, Dining Services, ITS, Diane Meyers and Facilities, Mary D’Amelia and Special Events staff.


Prof. Orzel Speaks at AAAS Meeting

Associate Professor Chad Orzel gave a presentation at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, as part of a symposium titled “Science Without Borders: Learning from TIMSS Advanced 2008,” about the Trends in International Math and Science Survey, an international test of math and physics given to students in nine countries. Chad’s talk, “What Physics Knowledge Is Assessed in TIMSS Advanced 2008?” evaluated the content of the physics test by comparing them to college and high school curricula and tests developed through physics education research. Other speakers in the symposium included representatives from the international study center that administers TIMSS, and from the national test centers in Norway and Slovenia talking about their nations’ experience with TIMSS Advanced.

The AAAS is one the world’s largest general scientific society, and one of the premier science organizations in the world. This year’s meeting brought together several thousand scientists, educators, journalists, and policy makers from some 50 countries.

O’Brien ‘11 and Barringer ‘11 Present at American Astronomical Society Meeting

Katelyn O’Brien, ’11, and Daniel Barringer, ’11, presented posters about their research at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, WA, in January.

Katie O’Brien ‘11 with her AAS Poster
Katelyn presented results from her senior thesis project with Associate Professor Rebecca Koopmann, ’89. Entitled “SMARTS Hα
Observations Of ALFALFA Gas-rich Galaxies In NGC 5846″, the poster described Katelyn’s analysis of star formation from images of galaxies obtained at the Cerro Tololo National Observatory in Chile through Union’s participation in the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) consortium. Katelyn is pursuing a major in physics and minors in astrophysics and Spanish.


Danny Barringer ‘11 with his AAS Poster
Daniel presented results from his Summer 2010 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer project at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, AZ. Daniel worked with Connie Walker of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory on the “Effects Of Light Pollution On The Movements Of Leptonycteris Curasoae Yerbabuenae In
The Tucson Area.” Daniel used data from the GLOBE at Night project and telemetry-tracking data to study the effects of light pollution on the flight paths of the lesser long-nosed bats between their day roosts and night foraging areas around the city of Tucson, AZ, finding that these bats are able to tolerate a fair degree of urbanization. Daniel was one of 6 students selected from a pool of 157 applicants from across the US to be awarded an REU internship at Kitt Peak in summer 2010. Daniel is a physics major and astrophysics minor.

The American Astronomical Society is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America.

Halley Darling ‘13 attends NSF-Sponsored Workshop at Arecibo Observatory, Organized by Prof. Koopmann

Prof. Koopmann and Halley Darling ‘13 at the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the fourth annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 16-20, 2011. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

Halley Darling, ’13, a Physics & Astronomy major, accompanied Koopmann and a select group of 16 other undergraduate students and 12 faculty members from 14 colleges and universities across the United States. Together they conducted observing runs, toured the telescope, and worked on group activities designed to model scientific collaborations.

As part of the workshop, Darling presented a poster about her Summer 2010 research project at Union (sponsored by NASA New York Space Grant). Entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations of the NGC 5846 Group of Galaxies,” the poster described the Union team’s research on environmental effects (such as gravitational interactions) on a concentration of galaxies. Ana Mikler, ’12, and SreyNoch Chin, ’12, were coauthors on the poster.

Darling used her new skills to help Koopmann conduct a remote observing run from her Union campus lab in Science and Engineering. Two first-year students, Lucas Viani ’14 and Alexandrea Safiq ’14, were enthusiastic participants. They can be seen steering the telescope on the ALFALFA blog.

The ALFALFA project, led by astronomers Riccardo Giovanelli and Martha Haynes of Cornell, is a multiyear survey of a large area of the sky at radio wavelengths appropriate for the detection of neutral hydrogen gas in other galaxies. It is expected that more than 30,000 galaxies out to a distance of 750 million light years will be detected by the survey.


Prof. LaBrake, Maria Battaglia ‘12 Present at Accelerator Conference

Maria Battaglie presents her poster

Scott LaBrake, Senior Lecturer of Physics and Astronomy and accelerator manager, and Maria Battaglia ’12 attended the 21st international Conference on the Applications of Accelerator in Research and Industry (CAARI) in Fort Worth, Texas in August. LaBrake gave an invited talk on Teaching Materials Analysis using PIXE at Union College, which detailed the use of the departments 1MV particle accelerator to study environmental pollution in atmospheric aerosols and liquid precipitation in New York State using the ion beam analysis technique of PIXE. Battaglia presented a poster detailing her research project on the Trace Elemental Composition & Concentration of Liquid Precipitation in New York Using PIXE that demonstrated seasonal variations in the elemental composition and concentration of rainwater and snow. LaBrake also submitted a paper at the conference that has been accepted for publication in a special edition of Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B along with co-authors Mike Vineyard, the Frank and Marie Louise Bailey Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Maria Battaglia ’12, Chad Harrington ’11, Colin Gleason ’11, Katie Schuff ’12, Shivani Pathak ’10, Rob Moore ’12, and Colin Turley ’13.


Prof. Vineyard Presents at AAPT meeting

Michael Vineyard, the Frank and Marie Louise Bailey Professor of Physics and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, gave a talk titled “Rutherford Back-Scattering Experiment in the First-Year Seminar at Union College” at the 2011 Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in Jacksonville, FL, in January. The meeting celebrated 100 years of nuclear physics that began with the discovery of the atomic nucleus in 1911 by Ernest Rutherford. Scott LaBrake, Senior Lecturer and Accelerator Manager, was co-author of the paper.