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Meet the 2017 GROWTH Summer Research Students

After an intense season of applications to a wide range of prestigious and competitive summer research programs, five undergraduate students from across the USA chose to go a step further and carry out a research project immersed in a culturally different and socially unfamiliar international environment. This year, the GROWTH Summer Research Program welcomes these students, who are eager to explore and learn from diverse perspectives and scientific approaches to the exploration of our universe’s origin and evolution.

Christopher Davis is a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park who likes to process and analyze observational data to support or refute theoretical models that describe stars, planets, galaxies, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts and other objects in the universe. He will join the group of Dr. Wen-Ping Chen at the National Central University in Taiwan to study star formation using optical data from the PTF survey, as well as infrared and sub-mm data from other surveys.

He chose the GROWTH Summer Research Program because “in order to be a well-rounded professional in astronomy I must become familiar with the methods and practices of other professionals working outside of my own institution and country.”

Alison Dugas, a senior at Caltech has participated in international exchange program before and is considering applying to graduate schools abroad.
“I have always been fascinated by the challenges of living with people who hold different societal expectations, and I am interested in seeing how this plays out not just socially but also in an academic setting.” - says Alison.

She is the veteran in our 2017 batch with extensive research experience gathered in the last 4 years. Having already work on diverse topics in astronomy ranging from finding ultra-compact dwarf galaxies in SDSS data to identifying short-period variable stars in the Galactic plane from a high-cadence PTF survey, Alison chose to work with Dr. Chan-Kao Chang at the National Central University to derive rotation periods from asteroid light curves.

Victor Baules, a junior at Caltech who is also the 2016-2017 Mellon Mays Fellow at the Caltech Center for Diversity, has had strong fascination for both space and Japanese language and culture since early age. Victor is particularly interested in black hole binaries, quasars, gamma-ray bursts and active galactic nuclei, and this summer he will use data from Japan’s MITSuME robotic telescope to analyze the properties of such cataclysmic transient events. Victor will work under the mentorship of Prof Nobu Kawai at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Majoring in Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park, Junellie Quiles believes that effective global communication is fundamental to science and essential to a successful career in any STEM discipline. Junellie has been captivated by the night skies since high school when she volunteered every Saturday at the Arecibo Observatory in her native Puerto Rico. At the end of high school when she found out she needs to move to a different country is she wanted to pursue a career as an astrophysicist, she was ready to face any challenge along the way.
“My current interests in astronomy are exoplanets, AGN (Active Galactic Nuclei) and galactic research, but since I am early in my college career, I am still exploring to find where my true interests lie.” - says Junellie.

As part of the GROWTH Summer Research Program, she will embark on a new challenging project that looks for ways to model and remove the time-varying and wavelength-dependent atmospheric absorption that limits the performance of current and upcoming wide-field survey telescopes like ZTF and LSST. Junellie’s host institution is the Humboldt University of Berlin in Germany. The university is located in the heart of the culturally vibrant city famous for its diverse art and music scene. No doubt a great place for Junellie, who loves being involved in arts, because “.. they make me explore another part of myself and get new perspectives”.

William Fiore, a junior at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee is excited to work this summer with Dr. Anna Franckowiak from the Humboldt University of Berlin to develop a visualization tool that will assist astronomers in scheduling follow-up telescope observations after neutrino-event triggers. The IceCube neutron detectors on the South Pole have captured extragalactic neutrinos but their origin is hotly debated with top candidates being gamma-ray bursts, active galactic-nuclei and supernovae.

William is a team leader of the Arecibo Remote Command Center at the UWM. In the process of scheduling and conducting ~100hr of observation with the Green Bank Telescope, and rating over 25 000 pulsar candidates, he has learn a lot about pulsar timing and radio astronomy but he welcomes the opportunity to expand his scientific horizon.

“Working at another institution as part of a different group, on a project in a different field from what I’ve been exposed to so far, will provide me with some perspective about my research interests in the future,” - says William. “It’s a unique opportunity to explore and get out of my comfort zone”.

The GROWTH Summer Research Program, funded by the National Science Foundation is designed to expose undergraduate student to an international research environment and prepare them to successfully navigate the increasingly global scientific world.

More Information

More about the GROWTH Summer Research Program
2016 -2017 Mellon Mays Fellows at Caltech
Meet UMD Astronomy and Physics Major Junellie Gonzales Quiles
Physics Students Head to Australia for the Sake of Science


Iva Kostadinova
GROWTH Communications and Media Contact
+1 626 395 2952

GROWTH is funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No 1545949. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.