Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab Project Objective:
The Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab is a publicly visible research laboratory at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, where museum visitors can see (through glass walls) astronomers and students at work, visualizations of their research, current space mission and science highlights and state-of-the-art “fly throughs” from Earth to the visible edge of the universe. The Astronomy & Astrophysics intern will work with Dr. Rachel Smith on a combination of research on meteorites and/or spectroscopy of forming stars, plus outreach related to creating visualizations for the general public. The specific project will be tailored to the intern’s skills and interests. The intern will work in a unique and exciting museum research setting, gaining valuable experience on cutting-edge research and communicating these products to the general public.
This internship is geared toward the undergraduate who is a self-starter with an eagerness to learn, excellent problem-solving skills, a good work ethic and the ability to work well independently as well as part of a team. The position is for a 10-week period in the summer months (start date to be arranged with the successful candidate).
Visualization of Jupiter’s rotation created by a NCMNS intern.
Internship Project Description
Major Tasks to be Performed:
- Use computer codes (primarily in IDL) to process molecular spectra observed toward young stellar objects in the Galaxy, and/or
- Process imagery on meteorites in the museum’s collection using software such as ImageJ and help with curation duties of the museum’s meteorite collection, and/or
- Work with new, open-source software called OpenSpace (openspaceproject.com) to help create visuals from Earth to the Universe. This may include integrating new NASA mission data into the OpenSpace software package.
- For any of the projects selected, the intern will work on translating data products from their project(s) into presentations that are visible and meaningful to a public audience. The intern will also be required to help the lab team with a few astronomy-related outreach events during the summer.
Final Product or Outcome Anticipated:
- Significant and reasonable progress on the data set chosen for the project, with potential for publication in a scientific journal;
- Visualizations related to the research that will be displayed to the general public through the glass walls of the lab;
- Potential for contribution to other NASA-funded research projects;
- Research poster that must be completed BEFORE the end of the internship. This will be presented at the NC Space Grant Space Conference on April 12, 2020 in Raleigh, NC.
Knowledge Gained by Intern:
- The successful intern will learn an extensive amount on how spectra are analyzed a broad perspective of current astrophysics, and will work on new research with state-of-the-art astronomical data.
- She/he will learn how to integrate complex and varied scientific information for a general audience, incorporating visitor-centered research findings into their work.
- The intern will learn skills in interacting with a diverse audience, toward being successful communicators.
Specific Job Duties:
- Use computer codes and software to process spectra, images, and/or incorporate NASA mission data into visualization software;
- Conduct literature searches for papers related to research, as needed;
- Create a scientific research poster on the project;
How periodic and final evaluations will be conducted:
Evaluations will be based on regular meetings between the intern and Dr. Smith, and discussions of progress. This will be a collaborative and iterative process.
Resources Available to Intern:
Computers and workspace, all necessary software and reduced data products will be available. The lab is primarily Mac-based, with one high-end Alienware laptop for visualization software.
$6,000 (10-week internship)
Awards are contingent upon receipt of NASA funding
How to Apply
Applications are due by Monday, April 15, 2019.
Faculty Letter of Recommendation is due by Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
Awards will be announced on or before May 5, 2019.
Interested students must complete an online application (see link below). Please read all program guidelines including applicant eligibility and reporting requirements before submitting your application. The application must be submitted online and all information must be complete or the application will not be reviewed.
Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and be majoring in one of the following: Astronomy/astrophysics, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and related fields. This position targets undergraduate majors.
Selected intern must:
- Submit a final research report to NC Space Grant;
- Present a poster at the NC Space Grant SPACE Symposium in Spring 2020.
- Share their research experiences in public forums or educational settings. Presentations that encourage interest in aerospace careers and research to high school students are of particular interest to NC Space Grant;
- Provide a photo and biographical information upon selection;
- Inform the Consortium of changes of address; and
- Respond to academic and employment follow-up surveys administered by NC Space Grant as required by NASA.
Project supervisor: Dr. Rachel Smith (Head, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab/Curator of Meteorites, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, and Associate Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Appalachian State University)