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

    Nantucket Maria Mitchell Observatory NSF-REU Interns Present Summer Astrophysics Research Projects
    On August 11 at 7pm, the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association’s Summer 2021 National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) interns will present their summer research projects in astrophysics virtually on Zoom as part of the free MMA Science Speaker Series. 
    This summer’s research projects covered a wide range of topics from determining how stellar activity might affect the habitability of exoplanets and searching for sources of gravitational waves, to monitoring the X-ray flares from the supermassive black hole at the center of our nearest neighbor galaxy, Andromeda, to unraveling the contents of the cosmic web. 

    For more than fifty years, the Maria Mitchell Observatory (MMO) has offered summer research opportunities in astronomy and astrophysics for undergraduate students on Nantucket. During the program, the six NSF-REU interns will present their individual research projects developed under the guidance of Maria Mitchell Observatory Director Dr. Regina Jorgenson and several affiliated astronomers.  “We are so happy to be able to be back in person this summer, and to have been able to invite the interns out to Nantucket.  It’s been a tough year for everyone, and the opportunity to spend the summer on Nantucket engaging in hands-on astrophysics research, as well as interacting with our many visitors to public open nights at the Loines Observatory, will likely change the lives of these young scholars,” said Jorgenson.  This summer was a particularly competitive year for the MMA’s NSF-REU program, which received over 250 applications for the six positions. 

    The summer 2021 Maria Mitchell Observatory (MMO) NSF-REU intern class includes: Kamara Culbreath, University of North Carolina-Greensboro; Jada Louison, Barnard College; Corrina Peña, Butler University; Alejandro Ross, Johns Hopkins University; Mayra Velazquez, Hendrix College; and Michele Woodland, University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

    The research projects that the interns will be discussing are:
    • “Do stellar flares impact disk emission and structure?”
    • Searching for gravitational wave sources using NASA’s TESS mission” 
    • “A Study of resolved AGB and post-AGB stars in GAIA”
    • Searching for X-ray flares from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Andromeda Galaxy”   “The search for intermediate mass black holes using white dwarf disruptions”   
    • 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 the MMA’s post-baccalaureate research fellow Georgia Stolle-McAllister 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 Space Telescope Science Institute, and the University of Colorado, Boulder.  This summer two of the affiliated astronomers are former MMA NSF-REU interns themselves: Dr. Suvi Gezari of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Dr. Meredith MacGregor of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    To register for this event, please follow the link below:
    For the full Science Speaker Series schedule, please visit our website here:
    This series is generously presented by our lead sponsor, Bank of America, and additional sponsors, Cape Air, Cisco Brewers, and White Elephant Resorts.
    The Maria Mitchell Association 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.