Thursday, September 03, 2015

Four UTSA students present research at American Astronomical Society meeting

students at meeting

At the AAS meeting are (from left) Students Sabrina Engelhardt, Marilyn Moore, Professor Eric Schlegel, Laura McMaster and Laura Vega

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(Feb. 17, 2011)--Outer space got a lot closer when students from UTSA attended the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, Wash. Four undergraduate students, sponsored by a generous gift from a college supporter, traveled with Eric Schlegel, UTSA Vaughan Family Endowed Professor in Physics, to the conference, which ran Jan. 9-13.

In addition to attending talks from some of the field's most prominent researchers, the students presented posters of their own.

Laura Vega, a junior physics major, had experience presenting posters at smaller meetings during the fall semester, but this was her first trip to an AAS meeting. "It was amazing! I felt very honored being around the astronomy-astrophysics community," she said.

Her projects included analysis of x-rays coming off the outburst of a cataclysmic nuclear explosion of a white dwarf star, or nova. Vega used a computer program called XSPEC to incorporate the data recorded by NASA's Swift telescope into a model showing what happened during the outburst.

Fellow junior in physics Marilyn Moore was equally excited about the experience. Attending a national meeting was a huge boost in confidence and is inspiring her to find her own niche in the astrophysics research field. It was "the most amazing experience I could have asked for as a first-timer," she said.

Like Vega, Moore's research focused on what happens when a nova occurs. She used a combination of physics and math to analyze and evaluate the phenomenon, resulting in a fascinating look at how matter evolves, knowledge that will help scientists learn more about the cosmos and life on Earth.

An exciting part of the meeting for both the students and Schlegel was explaining their research to scientists whose own research the students have been following. "The big win for each was presenting their results to interested researchers like Craig Wheeler of UT Austin, Rob Fesen of Dartmouth, Paula Szkody of the University of Washington, and the list goes on," said Schlegel.

For Vega, Moore and their peers Estela Jordan and Laura McMaster, attending this meeting will likely inspire continued research at the undergraduate level and pursuit of graduate degrees in physics.

Moore recommends students get into research at the undergraduate level because "it provides [students] with a sense of confidence and experience that class work alone simply does not offer."

Schlegel agreed. "This is a big meeting for researchers in astronomy. It is a pleasure for me to be able to bring such bright young students and give them an opportunity to meet and greet the best in the fieldm" he said. "I'm so proud of the work they have done and presented in this arena."

 

 

Did You Know?

Football standouts make Roadrunner history

For Ashaad Mabry and Triston Wade, football is not just a passing fancy. Both players were part of the UTSA football program almost from the beginning. When UTSA opens the 2015 season Thursday at Arizona, it will be the first time the Roadrunners take the field without them. But Mabry and Wade will still be playing football; their uniforms will just be a different color.

Mabry, a defensive tackle from San Antonio's MacArthur High School, was an honorable mention All-Conference USA selection his final two seasons as a Roadrunner and second among the team's defensive linemen with 49 tackles last year. Wade, a defensive back from Tyler, was the most decorated player in school history. He was a semifinalist for the 2014 Jim Thorpe Award – for the nation's top defensive back – a three-time all-conference honoree and two-year team captain who set a school record of 293 tackles in his career. Both men had outstanding college careers that allowed them to make UTSA history.

Did you know? Mabry and Wade both agreed to terms as undrafted free agents with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, respectively, becoming the first UTSA players to move to the professional ranks.

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