Maria Mitchell Observatory NSF-REU Interns Present Summer Astrophysics Research Projects

Nantucket, MA – On August 5 at 7pm the summer 2020 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate (NSF-REU) interns will present their summer research projects in astrophysics virtually on Zoom as part of the Maria Mitchell Summer Science Speaker Series.

While the interns were not able to travel to Nantucket due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, they were able to participate in the research component of the program virtually, via Zoom and email.  This summer’s research projects covered a wide range of topics from searching for planets around white dwarf stars and determining the potential habitability of exoplanets, to studying black holes and the cosmic web.  “While it was unfortunate that we could not bring the interns here to Nantucket this summer, we are grateful that we were able to still provide them with an amazing research experience, even if it was entirely remote.  In fact, this experience simulates the way most astronomers work these days – as we all collaborate with other scientists located across the globe.  So, for astronomers, working together with remote collaborators is something we have been practicing long before COVID,” said Dr. Regina Jorgenson, the Maria Mitchell Association Director of Astronomy.  “Several of the interns will be applying to graduate programs in the fall and their research experience at the MMA will not only help them determine what areas of research are most interesting to them, but also will  strengthen their applications to these competitive programs,” Jorgenson continued.

The summer 2020 Maria Mitchell Observatory (MMO) NSF-REU intern class consists of: Devon Barros, Bridgewater State University; Kiana Burton, Temple University; Sarah Graber, Columbia University; A. Granados, Wellesley College; Andrea Mejia, Hunter College CUNY; and Natalia Villanueva, Harvard University.

The research projects that the interns will be discussing are:  “Searching for Planetary Remnants Around Bright White Dwarfs with NASA’s TESS Mission”  &  “Using Millimeter Wavelength Observations to Determine the Potential Habitability of Exoplanets”  & “Peering into the Lighthouse: X-ray Emission from RV Tau Variable Stars and Their Companions” & “Detailed Analysis of Tidal Disruption Event Light Curves: The Search for Clues for What is Powering Their Optical Emission”  & “Dissecting Pulsar Wind Nebulae with the Chandra and NuSTAR X-ray Observatories” &  “Using Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) to Untangle the Cosmic Web: IFU Studies of FRB Host Galaxies.”

The research interns have been advised by Dr. Jorgenson and Jay Chittidi of the MMA, as well as several affiliated astronomers from a range of institutes including the Chandra X-Ray Center, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, Boston University, and M.I.T in Boston, the University of Maryland, and the University of Colorado, Boulder.  This summer two of the affiliated astronomers are former MMA REU interns themselves (Dr. Suvi Gezari, University of Maryland, and Dr. Meredith MacGregor, University of Colorado, Boulder).

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, a research center, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.