Undergraduate Research

Research is important at Wesleyan, and we have many opportunities for students to get involved with our active groups. Most astronomy majors spend some time observing with our 0.6 m telescope and CCD camera, which is used to study extremely young stars in the Orion Nebula Cluster and other regions and to study transiting exoplanets. Many get a chance to travel to Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, to use the National Observatory facilities for studies of dwarf galaxies or globular clusters. Others work on data obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and other space-based observatories. Data are reduced and analyzed on our extensive network of computer workstations available to majors. For the more theoretically inclined, we also make use of a Beowulf class supercomputer operated jointly at Wesleyan by the Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics departments. One of the advantages of Wesleyan for undergraduates is that we have a master's degree program which gives our majors a chance to work with graduate students as well as faculty as part of an active research group.

The culmination of research at Wesleyan for most undergraduate majors is the senior thesis. Here are some examples of recent thesis titles, which provide a glimpse of the sort of research that students can get involved with in our department. Since our faculty has recently expanded, additional opportunities are now available.

Undergraduate Thesis Topics

Class

Student

Thesis Title

2012 Alexandra Truebenbach The Central Stellar Structures of Active Galaxies

2011

Marshall Johnson

Exoplanetary Transit Timing Using the Perkin Telescope

2011

Adam Michael

Environments of Low-Luminosity Active Galaxies

2010

Emily Leiner

Analyzing the Light Curves of Transiting Extrasolar Planets

2010

Karlen Shahinyan AGN on the Fringe

2009

Anna Williams

[OIII]-Detected ELGs at Intermediate Redshift

2009

Hanna Sugarman

Finding Intermediate-Mass Black Holes in the Local Universe

2008

Evan Tingle

Observations of the Solar Limb with TRACE and SUMER

2008

Arthur Sugden

The Star-Formation-Rate Density of the Local Universe

2008

Jessica Kellar

H-alpha Dots: The Nature of Isolated Emission-line Regions

Often, students will present the results of their research at meetings of the American Astronomical Society and/or in professional journals, such as The Astronomical Journal or The Astrophysical Journal. Here are a few examples of papers recently published by Wesleyan undergraduate student authors in collaboration with their research advisors. The student's name is in boldface.

The Stellar Environments of Supermassive Black Holes in Nearby Seyfert 2 Galaxies, Truebenbach, A., & Moran, E., Poster at the American Astronomical Society Meeting 220, 335.02

First Results from the Wesleyan Transiting Exoplanet Program, Johnson, M., Leiner, E., Redfield, S., Poster at the American Astronomical Society Meeting 217, 343.05

A Population of Metal-Poor Star-Forming Galaxies at Intermediate Redshifts, Salzer, J.J.,Williams, A, Gronwall, C., Poster at the American Astronomical Society Meeting 212, 19.10


Research can also be done during the summer, as part of a job experience. There are many summer research jobs offered for undergraduates each year, and Wesleyan students have been quite successul at obtaining them. Wesleyan is part of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium, and this group has created many summer job opportunities over the years as well as sponsoring an annual student symposium and publication.

Where do our astronomy majors go when they graduate? Some choose to go on to graduate programs in Astronomy where they obtain a Ph.D. in preparation for a career in astronomy research and/or teaching. Here are some examples of recent students who have gone on to graduate school:

Wesleyan Class

Student

Graduate School

Subject

2012 Alexandra Truebenbach Colorado University Astrophysics

2011

Marshall Johnson

University of Texas

Astrophysics

2010

Karlen Shahinyan

University of Minnesota

Astrophysics

2008

Arthur Sugden

Brown University

Microbiology

2008

Jessica Kellar

Dartmouth College

Astrophysics


Other Astronomy majors choose to use their education in other ways. Being an astronomy major at Wesleyan says to an employer that you are smart, hard working and well prepared in technical and communication skills. Our students are highly competitive for a wide variety of post-Wesleyan occupations. Below are recent examples of what you can do with a Wesleyan astronomy degree besides going to graduate school:

Wesleyan Class

Student

Occupation

Location

2008/09 (B.A./M.A.)

Evan Tingle

Research

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Chandra X-ray Center

2009

Hannah Sugarman

Research

University of Arizona

2009

Anna Williams

Research

Indiana University