Adam Burgasser shares thoughts and experiences on recruiting diverse graduate students in UCSD workshop

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On April 21st, the Division of Social Sciences at UCSD held a panel discussion on Recruiting a Diverse Graduate Student Pool, which included Adam Burgasser, Frances Contreras from the Department of Education Studies and Antonio DeMaio from the School of Medicine. Adam spoke on the efforts of the UCSD Physics Department to increase diversity in its graduate program.

Physics has a long road toward equity, with only 2% and 3% of Physics PhDs being conferred to African Americans and Hispanic Americans, and only 19% of Physics PhDs going to women. One tool toward improving these numbers and those of faculty and STEM professionals is to recruit, train, support and retain a diverse graduate population.

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Cool Star Undergrads Present Work at UCSD Research Conference

14003454126_1eac67154c_mAishwarya Iyer and Melisa Tallis both presented 15 minute talks on their research work today at the 27th Annual UCSD Undergraduate Research Conference.  The conference recognizes outstanding scholarly work produced by UC San Diego undergraduates, and all participating students are nominated by faculty who have judged their work to be outstanding. Aisha presented her work on Spitzer monitoring of the TWA 30AB system (“Mid-infrared Variability of the Low Mass Stellar Binary TWA 30 A and B”); Melisa presented her work searching for young brown dwarfs in the SpeX Prism Spectral Library (“Identifying Young Brown Dwarfs Near the Sun”).

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Aisha Iyer Presents Research on TWA 30AB at American Physical Society Meeting

IMG_0256Aisha Iyer, an undergraduate researcher in the Cool Star Lab, attended the April 2014 American Physics Society Meeting in Savannah, GA, to present a poster on her research: Spitzer monitoring observations of TWA 30AB.  She was the recipient of an APS FPD Scholar Travel Award and supported by the UCSD Physics Department for her trip. Here’s what Aisha had to say about the experience:

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Project Planetaria reviews its first 2 years

Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 11.01.34 PMThe Project Planetaria collaboration between Cool Star Lab PI Adam Burgasser, Theatre Arts faculty Tara Knight, and Visual Arts faculty Michael Trigilio, recently gave a talk at the Center for the Humanities describing their first two years. This included a description of two major installations, Solar Variations and Our Star Will Die Alone, and the TDDE 131: Project Planetaria class held in Spring 2013.  Future plans and spinoffs from this collaboration were also described, including the New Horizons Message and Galaxy Gardens projects with Jon Lomberg and Embody Physics.

Slides from the presentation can be found at this link.

Talk on the Future of the SpeX Prism Library

Prof. Adam Burgasser gave a talk on March 21, 2014 at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, describing the impact and future of the SpeX Prism Library (SPL).  The talk can be viewed in its entirety through YouTube:

Initiated over 5 years ago, the SPL is a compilation of nearly 1000 low-resolution near-infrared spectra of M, L and T dwarfs measured with the SpeX spectrograph on the 3-meter IRTF telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.  The data were acquired by several groups over the past decade.  Used in over 100 publications to date, the SPL has been an invaluable resource for studies on cool stars, brown dwarfs, exoplanets and even high redshift quasars!  In addition, SPL data has been used for art (through Project Planetaria) and public outreach/education.

In his talk, Adam described his vision of the future of the SPL , which is aimed at making it a fully curated dataset and more user-friendly for non-expert use; e.g., for research projects for students from middle school to college levels. Some of the main tasks he foresees in realizing this vision are (1) providing a more uniformly calibrated set of spectra through re-reduction of older data; (2) expansion of the dataset, including data published in the literature or languishing in the SpeX computers; (3) development of Python software tools to visualize, measure and manipulate the spectra; and (4) development of visual programming tools so non-experts can explore the data in new ways.  Adam has requested funding from the NSF and NASA to pursue this work.


Some of the work is already underway, as the Cool Star Lab has started development of the SpeX Prism Library Analysis Toolkit, or SPLAT.  In weekly coding sessions, the group has produced the first iteration of the toolkit, allowing for spectral data reading, plotting and index measurement.  More to come soon!