Burgasser publishes on issues of inclusion in Nature Astronomy

Cool Star Lab PI Adam Burgasser recently published two Comments in Nature Astronomy, in a special issue focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in physical science.

The first Comment, “Why I Teach Growth Mindset“, led by Adam, discusses the concept of mindset, and how fixed mindset can amplify the struggles of marginalized students, mentees and peers in Astronomy and Physics. He describes how he addresses fixed mindset in workshops and in the classroom, and provides a toolkit for hosting a Growth Mindset workshop.

The second Comment, “Toward inclusive practices with indigenous knowledge“, led by Aparna Venakatesan, describes models of partnership with indigenous communities that integrate collaboration with integrity. Inspired by the 2015 Indigenous Worldviews in Informal Science Education conference, examples featured include Cosmic SerpentA Hua He InoaEnVision MaunakeaNative Universe, and Maunakea Scholars. This comment is based on a more detailed white paper submitted to the Astro2020 Decadal Review.

The Comments and Perspectives contributed to the Nature Astronomy issue are free to read and download until early January 2020; copies of these articles are also available on request to Adam.

Exploring TRAPPIST-1 Virtually

The cosmOcosm team, lead by CU Boulder graduate student Kevin Sweet and including faculty co-leads Tara Knight and Adam Burgasser, brought the newest development of the Sound Planetarium project to the 2019 TRAPPIST-1 conference in Liege, Belgium.

Kevin Sweet setting up the TRAPPIST-1 Virtual demonstration at the conference venue.

The Sound Planetarium project was originally developed to explore spatialized sound in “sonifying” astronomical data. Kevin has been exploring this process in virtual spaces, with a key innovation in making the sound process two-way – both hearing and speaking to our data!

Concept model of the TRAPPIST-1d surface

In honor of the TRAPPIST-1 conference, the team developed a virtual reality setting for the surface of TRAPPIST-1, one in which we can explore both the planetary system at large (viewing the orbits of the planets around its low-mass host star) and the view from the surface. Movement in the simulation was controlled by both “gaze” (where you looked) and basic voice commands.

Kevin explaining what the viewer sees in the virtual space.
Kevin “suiting up” a virtual explorer

We got a lot of great feedback from the folks who tried out the demonstration, which helps us explore new narratives for exploring this amazing system in virtual space.

Kevin discussing ideas with Artem Burdanov

Cool Star Lab hosts Cal-Bridge Workshop on Growth Mindset

The Cool Star Lab hosted the first workshop for the Cal-Bridge program in 2018-2019 on the topic of Growth Mindset. This is the fourth such workshop on this topic hosted by Cool Star Lab PI Adam Burgasser, and the third workshop overall hosted at UCSD.

UCSD is one of the founding of the Cal-Bridge program, based at Cal-Poly Pomona and run by CPP faculty Alex Rudolph and UCI faculty Tammy Smecker-Hane. The purpose of Cal-Bridge is to create a pathway for underrepresented minority students from CSU campuses to matriculate into PhD programs in physics and astronomy. A recent $5M NSF grant has allowed Cal-Bridge to expand statewide, and to support up to 50 students, who benefit from financial support, research opportunities, and professional development workshops.

Growth mindset is the concept that intelligence, talent, and even personality can be changed and developed as a strategy for persistence in challenging academic programs. Developed by Carol Dweck and collaborators, growth mindset is now regularly taught in schools and universities to encourage positive psychological development. Adam has been teaching Growth Mindset for over 6 years with various student groups.

In addition to the workshop, the 20 Cal-Bridge scholars in attendance had a panel discussion with UCSD graduate students (including Cool Star Lab’s newest graduate member, Roman Gerasimov) and toured the Cosmology Lab.  Adam will also be hosting a workshop later in the year on effective writing techniques for graduate school applications statements of purpose.

Read more in the UCSD News report.

cosmOcosm Presents Sound Planetarium at the USA Science and Engineering Festival

The cosmOcosm team was invited by the NSF to present their Sound Planetarium system at the 2018 USA Science and Engineering Festival. Known as the “National Science Fair”, this festival features science and science education from across the nation in areas ranging from astronomy to zoology. The NSF invited cosmOcosm directors Adam Burgasser and Tara Knight to bring their demonstration to the Festival to highlight some of the science outreach and exploration activities funded by the NSF.

cosmOcosm brought three demonstrations for the Festival: our Sound Planetarium, our Personal Sound Planetarium and our Virtual Sound Planetarium. All three are experiments in spatial sonification, transforming data in to sound that is located in space.

Our first Sound Planetarium demonstration consists of 6 speakers and software to produce spatialized sound, which allows us to “spatially sonify” astronomical data. In this demonstration, we sonified the 10 brightest stars in the sky, mapping properties such as color, brightness, and spectral type to tone, volume, and vibration (timbre). We spatialized the sound to a rotating system, allowing the “stars” to rise in the East and set in the West at a fast enough pace to detect. We also had a second demonstration that sonified gravitational wave bursts (and background noise) as detected by LIGO, with the help of Marc Favata’s “Sounds of Spacetime” site (https://www.soundsofspacetime.org/).

Yuka Murakami describing the Sound Planetarium to a family of Festival participants.

Our second demonstration was a Personal Sound Planetarium that allows the use to experience the spatially sonified data through headphones, which makes it somewhat easier to hear and place the sounds. This is similar to the sound effects you hear in some music where instruments or singers are placed at different locations, but in this case those locations and sounds are based on stellar data.

Tara Knight inquiring what a participant is hearing in the Personal Sound Planetarium

Our third demonstration was a Virtual Sound Planetarium that allows the user to explore the night sky while virtually floating in space. This included sonification of stars when the user looks at them. This can be a little disorienting! But it reminds us that space is not just “up” but all around us.

Adylan Fyhrie describing what participants are about to experience in the Virtual Sound Planetarium
A Festival participant getting her bearing in the Virtual Sound Planetarium
Kevin Sweet keeping an eye on a Virtual Sound Planetarium participant while he explores the space around him.

The Sound Planetarium project was developed to force us to think about how we explore the Universe in different ways. In astronomy, we are highly biased toward our visual senses (“let’s see the data”, “what a beautiful image”), yet many astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts are blind. More importantly, much of the information we gather from space comes in non-visible forms – radio, infrared and X-ray radiation, cosmic rays, and gravitational waves are key examples – so “visualization” is a choice. The sonification movement has enabled all of us to re-think our approach to scientific information and how we can analyze ever more complex datasets.

The cosmOcosm Sound Planetarium project is a collaboration of University of Colorado Boulder and UC San Diego and, with PIs Tara Knight and Adam Burgasser. Much of the development has been achieved through our student team of Kevin Sweet, Yuka Murakami, Adylan Fyhrie, Jake Cushnir and Melisa Tallis. The work has been funded by the NSF and the UCSD Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program.

UCSD Hosts 2016 SoCal Physics Graduate Admissions Bootcamp

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UCSD hosted the 2016 SoCal Physics Graduate Admissions Bootcamp this year at on August 13-14, 2016. The two-day intensive workshop, developed by members of the California Professoriate for Access to Physics Careers (CPAPC) and organized this year by Adam Burgasser and members of the Cool Star Lab,  is designed to help students, particularly those from underrepresented minority groups, plan for application to Physics graduate programs. This includes strategies for choosing programs, how to produce the best application, and how to succeed in the Physics GRE Subject Exam. Bootcamps are held in Southern and Northern California each year.

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