10th anniversary of REU program

Aug 06, 2011

This summer marked the 10th birthday of the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program hosted jointly by the Astronomy and Physics Departments. Fourteen students from around the country participated in the 10-week program, which is funded continuously by the National Science Foundation.

This year’s REU students included Melissa Abler (UW-Madison), Jon Beker (Carleton College), Kerry Clavadetscher (Yale University), Allie Fittante (Northern Michigan University), Martin Gostisha (UW-Whitewater), Jack Honor (UW-Madison), Aurora Kesseli (Colby College), Jeramy Lewis (University of Colorado at Boulder), Mallory Molina (Ohio State University), Drake Ranqiust (Brigham Young University), Ryan Sanders (University of Louisville), Meryl Sell (UW-Madison), Nick Stantzos (Northern Arizona University), and Roberto Rodriguez Torres (University of Puerto Rico-Humacao).

The students had firsthand experience working with UW-Madison astronomy and physics researchers studying topics including blue compact dwarf galaxies, star formation history, black hole masses of quasars and young stellar objects. They also got to work with some of UW-Madison’s largest research facilities, including observations with the 3.5-meter WIYN optical telescope, the 11-meter SALT telescope and the large South Pole IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

Each student worked with a mentor to complete a directed research project. They also attended a weekly lecture series, weekend field trips to Yerkes and Fermilab, and other casual social events including Summerfest. Students were also encouraged to participate in the Department outreach program, Universe in the Park.

The REU site in Madison was founded in 2002 by UW-Madison astronomy professor Linda Sparke and UW-Whitewater physics professor Robert Benjamin. For the past six years, the program has been led by UW-Madison astronomy professor Snezana Stanimirovic and physics associate scientist Ed Mierkiewicz, who acts as the program director extraordinaire. More than 20 researchers have helped mentor REU students.

Over the first nine years of the program there have been a total of over 1,000 applicants, with a record 145 applications in 2010. The Departments of Astronomy and Physics have hosted 89 REU students (44 female/45 male/30 under-represented minorities) from 2002-2009. Twenty-eight of the participants were first generation college students. So far, 50 of the 72 REU students that have finished their undergraduate degrees have been accepted into graduate programs, including 15 of 23 students from under-represented minorities. Of this total of 50, eight were accepted into graduate programs other than physics/astronomy (science journalism, science education, geology, philosophy, mathematics, biomedical engineering, Harvard Medical School). This year, the Astronomy REU program reached another milestone, as some of the first REU participants have now obtained their PhDs.

For more information, visit the REU websites at: http://wisp11.physics.wisc.edu/~reu/reu2011.html and http://www.astro.wisc.edu/undergrads/uw-madison-reu-program

UW-Madison Astronomy Home