McDonald Observatory Receives Multi-Year Grant to Train Students

20 October 2003

Fort Davis, Texas — McDonald Observatory astronomers Dr. Mark Adams and Dr. Matthew Shetrone have received a grant worth about $140,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to involve advanced undergraduate students in innovative astronomical and engineering research projects at the Observatory’s Davis Mountains site for the next three summers.

"This program reflects the McDonald Observatory’s dedication to its astronomical research and education missions," Adams said. "This NSF grants allows the Observatory to offer undergraduates exciting opportunities to participate in astronomical research early in their careers. Each summer, up to six students will spend ten weeks living and working at McDonald. It will be intellectually rewarding and fun."

The Observatory will recruit students primarily from colleges and universities in the southwestern United States. About half of those recruited will be astronomy or physics students; the remainder will be engineering students. While at the Observatory, each student will be mentored by a senior astronomer or engineer.

"The astronomy students will, in collaboration with their mentor, observe and analyze the universe with world-class telescopes and instrumentation," Shetrone said. "The program’s engineering students will be equally challenged by projects that involve analyzing and upgrading mechanical, electrical, software or optical systems that support the various McDonald telescopes."

This NSF program, titled "Research Experiences for Undergraduates," will give students exposure to the 9.2-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope (the third largest optical telescope in the world), the 2.7-meter Harlan J. Smith Telescope, the 2.1-meter Otto Struve Telescope, and the McDonald 0.8-meter Telescope. It is expected that several of these student projects will yield results that merit publication in professional astronomy or engineering journals.

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