Monday, January 23, 2017

The 2017 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

The 2017 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) was held at several locations from January 13-16.   The locations included: Montana State University, University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of California–Los Angeles, University of Colorado–Boulder, Wayne State University, McMaster University, Princeton University, Harvard University, Virginia Tech, and Rice University.  Four students from JMU – Maria Gordon, Tara Jobin, Yvonne Kinsella, and Catherine Witherspoon –  attended the Conference held at Virginia Tech.

The weekend started out with dinner on Friday night, where Dr. Sabrina Stierwalt, an astrophysicist working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and as adjunct faculty at UVA, talked about her career and her journey to becoming a physicist.  Her talk also presented the science of NRAO, with emphasis on how it was being built and its importance to the radio astronomy community.

Saturday brought four more physicists talking about their work, including Dr. Kate Scholberg of Duke University,  Connie Li from the Naval Research Labs, Dr. Laurie McNeil of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and Dr. Laura Greene of Florida State University and Chief Scientist at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Also on Saturday, Yvonne Kinsella and Catherine Witherspoon presented their research posters. 

Left to Right:  Yvonne Kinsella, Maria Gordon, Tara Jobin, Catherine Witherspoon

The day ended with an informative panel on Professional Skills led by Dr. Laura Greene, Dr. Kate Scholberg, Dr. Jeri Brunson (Naval Research Labs), and Miranda Bard (staff at American Physical Society).  The plenary sessions of the next day were on Diversity and Inclusion by Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice provost for diversity and inclusion at Virginia Tech, and a panel hosted by Dr. Pratt-Clarke, Dr. Laura Greene, Dr. Kate Scholberg, and Dr. Leo Piilonen (Virginia Tech).

Throughout the last morning of CUWiP 2017, we had the opportunity to chose sessions of talks with topics that ranged from professional life after undergraduate school to presentations of the variety of fields of study  that physics offer as potential career choices. 
The program for the Conference's Sunday Sessions

The effort of the  organizers of CUWiP 2017 at Virginia Tech resulted in a weekend full of valuable advice from professional role models, and offered great resources for those contemplating their futures after they finish undergraduate schooling.   We certainly appreciated the opportunity to attend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Yet another case of JMUAstro students totally rocking at the AAS229

As the title says, our department's astronomy face was once again showing awesome data and results, along with grins and smiles at the most prestigious national conference in astronomy.

During the first week of January, three of our undergraduates, Catherine Witherspoon, Jason Ferguson, and Kenny Gordon, presented their works at the 229th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), in Grapevine, Texas.

For Kenny it was the first AAS meeting, while Catherine and Jason were now basically veterans (their first AAS participation was last year, at the 227th AAS meeting, presented to you here).

When you work hard on interesting projects and have nice results, you have to let the world know about them.  And they rocked:

Catherine unfolded new understanding of how colors of quasars are measured, based on the work she pursued during her Summer 2016 REU at the University of Wyoming:  New Quasar Surveys with WIRO: Colors of ~1000 Quasars at 0 < z < 3.  

Jason enchanted the audience with brand-new and sophisticated data of interacting galaxies from the Large Binocular Telescope, with his poster: Near-Infrared Spectroscopic Analysis of Galaxy Mergers: Revealing Obscured Accretion.   This project was possible thanks to funds from the 4-VA initiative at JMU, for collaboration between JMU and GMU astronomy faculty. 

Kenny presented: Image Analysis of OSIRIS-REx Touch-And-Go Camera System (TAGCAMS) Thermal Vacuum Test Images, which is work that he developed during past summer as an intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  

Catherine, Jason and Kenny are all seniors, and are quite engrossed into graduate school applications right now, so wish them best of luck with these tedious, yet, still creative endeavors (as part of their applications, they need to write about the research projects they envision for their future graduate thesis).  

We will keep you posted with their successes, just stay tuned.