Cool Stars Lab shines in 2016 Summer Research Conference

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The Cool Star Lab had a strong showing at this year’s 2016 UCSD Summer Research Conference, held August 11th around campus.  Ten students from the Lab presented results during the full day event, including six in Session #1 alone!

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Cool Star Lab Presents Work at 2016 Physics Education Research Conference

Mike Lopez, Isabela Rodrigues and Adam Burgasser presented their early analysis of an experimental Physics course at the 2016 Physics Education Research Conference in Sacramento, CA. This was the first PERC for all three researchers. In addition, former Cool Star Lab member Dianna Cowern was on hand for the overlapping American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) meeting presenting her work on the Physics Girl video series.

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Past and present Cool Star Lab members at the 2016 PERC; from left to right: Isabela Rodrigues, Dianna Cowern, Adam Burgasser and Mike Lopez.

The primary research presentations focused on analysis of an experiment conducted in Fall 2015 to implement Cooperative Problem Solving (CPS) in the large Physics 1A Introductory Mechanics course. The current course format, which is lecture-based, does not specifically build up students’ problem solving skills, skills that students often struggle with and which may benefit them more in their other majors and in their future careers. Inspired by work being done by Thomas Gredig at CSU Long Beach, I implemented a form of CPS as described in Heller & Heller (2010) as a flipped-format course, with online video lectures providing the primary instruction and class time primarily devoted to problem-solving skills and techniques.  To validate the model, Adam taught 9 sections of the CPS course with 1 (large) section of interactive lecture. The work presented at the PERC was a preliminary analysis of student outcomes.

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UCSD Selected as an SDSS FAST Site

The Cool Star Lab has joined the SDSS Faculty and Student Team (FAST) initiative, with a research program focused on analyzing high resolution spectroscopy of ultracool dwarfs with SDSS-APOGEE.

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Work by Cool Star Lab Alumna Aishwarya Iyer Featured in NASA Press Release

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Cool Star Lab alumna Aishwarya Iyer, currently a Master’s student at CSU Northridge and intern at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has recently published work on exoplanet atmospheres that has been featured in a NASA Press Release. Her paper, “A Characteristic Transmission Spectrum Dominated by H2O Applies to the Majority of HST/WFC3 Exoplanet Observations“, published in the Astrophysical Journal, concludes that most hot Jupiter atmospheres likely contain water vapor, even those that show weak water features. This is due to the role of hazes and clouds, which can obscure molecular gas features. Aisha and her team performed a comprehensive analysis of 19 Hot Jupiter transmission spectra taken by HST/WFC3, and modeling analysis indicates that the bulk of water vapor lies below the cloud layers. This work is a major advance in understanding the role of clouds and haze in exoplanetary atmospheres, which are also important constituents in brown dwarf atmospheres.

The paper can be accessed at http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2016ApJ…823..109I and the press release can be found at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6527

Gretel Mercado presents at 2016 CAMP Symposium at UCI

Undergraduate research Gretel Mercado presented her research investigating a possible brown dwarf companion to a nearby star at the 2016 CAMP Statewide Symposium at UC Irvine.

Gretel is a member of the UCSD chapter of the California Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in Science, Engineering and Mathematics (CAMP – LSAMP). This NSF-funded program provides support and advancement opportunities to students defined as underrepresented by the NSF who are seeking bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, physics, cognitive science, biology, other sciences, mathematics, engineering and technology. It is one of many initiatives started by the recently deceased senator from Ohio Louis Stokes to advance underrepresented minorities in science and education.

Gretel was one of 45 students from across the UC system to present physical science research posters at the day-long event, which were judged by nearly two dozen faculty members from all campuses.  She reported her analysis of a previously unrecognized L dwarf that appears to be a very wide companion to a nearby, young sun-like star. She is currently writing up her research for publication. This was the same research that won Gretel a poster award at the APS Far West meeting in October 2015