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’s Publishes Second Book: How to Teach Relativity to your Dog

Chad Orzel, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy, has published his second book: How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog, in which he explains relativity through imaginary conversations with Emmy, his German shepherd mix. The book is a follow-up to Orzel’s popular How to Teach Physics to Your Dog (see this post).

See the following links for more information:
Press Release
New York Times Review
Review in Wired
Times Union article
Cosmic Log article

Union Physics majors observe at Arecibo Observatory

Rachel Almodovar, Rebecca Koopmann, Halley Darling, and Lucas Viani at the Arecibo Telescope

Physics and Astronomy majors Halley Darling, ’13, Lucas Viani, ’14, and Rachel Almovodar, ’15, recently observed at the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico with Physics & Astronomy Professor Rebecca Koopmann, ’89. The team carried out a 4-night observing run to record radio emission from hydrogen gas in galaxies located up to 750 million light-years away. The Arecibo telescope operates at radio wavelengths and is the world’s largest reflector, spanning more than 1,000 feet in diameter and with a surface area as big as 26 football fields.

The observations carried out by the Union team are part of the ongoing ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA, where ALFA i
s the name of the detector used in the observations) survey, a 7-year project headed by Riccardo Giovanelli at Cornell University, to census hydrogen-bearing galaxies in the local Universe. Among the targets were some of the smallest galaxies yet detected.

Funding for the trip was provided by Koopmann collaborative NSF “Undergraduate ALFALFA Team” grant with Colgate University and Georgia Southern University. The Union team also trained faculty and student colleagues from Hartwick College and St. Mary’s College of California in observing and data reduction techniques.

The trip was part of the Sophomore Scholar’s Project of Lucas Viani, ’14; he studied gas and star formation properties of a nearby gravitationally-bound group of galaxies.

Rachel Almodovar is from Puerto Rico – it was a childhood dream of hers to observe at Arecibo, an opportunity provided by Union! She wrote up her thoughts on observing at Arecibo on the ALFALFA blog at: http://alfalfasurvey.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/a-childhood-wish-come-true/

All three students will be working with Koopmann this summer on research related to the observing trip.

Prof. Koopmann and Students organize and attend NSF-Sponsored National Workshop at Arecibo Observatory

Lucas Viani, Rebecca Koopmann, and Wyatt Smith at the Arecibo Telescope

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the fifth annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 16-18, 2012. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

Lucas Viani, ’14, a Physics & Astronomy major, and Wyatt Smith accompanied Koopmann and a select group of 16 other undergraduate students and 11 faculty members from 14 colleges and universities across the United States. Together they conducted observing runs, toured the telescope, and learned about radio astronomy. Viani and Smith presented posters about their summer research 2012 projects with Koopmann.

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