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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."



Dec. 1, 9 a.m.

CITE Venture Competition & Exposition

The annual Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) 100K Venture Competition and Exposition will be held on the Main Campus on Dec. 1. Twenty-eight teams from across the university will exhibit their project; six teams will compete for a prize pool of more than $100,000 in funding to launch their new venture / company. More than 650 students have participated in launching new technology ventures.
Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering (BSE 2.102), Main Campus

Dec. 3, 5:30 p.m.

UTSA Downtown String Project Winter Concert

This concert features 50 community children performing music in the UTSA Downtown String Project Winter Concert. The children, led by UTSA music students studying to be music teachers, will join together in playing the Theme from Batman at their concert. The Batman of San Antonio, a local celebrity figure, will make an appearance at the concert. This event is free.
Buena Vista Theatre, Downtown Campus

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Did You Know?

UTSA writes the book on all-digital libraries

As touch screens and e-books demand more and more attention from both casual readers and scholars, many people say the handwriting is on the wall for the printed page.

At UTSA, the handwriting is on the wall for a library that doesn't have any printed books.

Since March 2010, the bookless library in the Applied Engineering and Technology Building has given UTSA students an innovative way to read, research and work with each other to solve problems.

With ultra-modern furniture and a décor featuring desktop computers, scanners and LCD screens, the AET Library is designed to engage students in an online format. But it also offers group study niches and study rooms with whiteboards and glass walls on which students can write. The space encourages teamwork, communications and problem solving for the next generation of scientists and professional engineers.

Did you know? The UTSA AET Library is the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. It served as a model for Bexar County's first-in-the-nation public bookless library system and one of its branches, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.

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