Summer Research at Yalejcampbel | June 30, 2010
Hi, Jennifer Campbell here, Astrophysics major of the Haverford class of 2011. This is my Summer’s-Halfway-Over Update post. First I’ll talk about the work I’ve been doing, then a little about Yale and my experience here. Sorry no pics right now, I never seem to remember my camera when I got out.
This summer I’ve been doing research with Prof Marla Geha (a collaborator of Beth Willman) at Yale University. I have been working on an independent project, getting paid by a KINSC Summer Stipend.
Marla and her group members have been working with observations of Milky Way satellites. At the beginning of the summer, I started looking at the velocity profiles of Milky Way foreground stars in the lines of sight of these objects. I then compared them to the velocity distribution of modeled stars in corresponding lines of sight, created by an online galaxy simulator, the Besançon Model. After a few weeks, it became apparent that it was difficult to compare these populations effectively, after trying a few statistical tests, as well as after finding some qualitative curiosities. To perhaps enable a better comparison, I began breaking down the groups of stars, sorting the modeled population into disk vs halo and/or giant vs dwarf stars. But again, progress proved limited.
Most recently, I’ve jumped back almost to square one. Marla has given me the original complete data sets for two of the objects, and I have started the object member selection over from scratch to get a more precise cut. I’ve been having some success, but with some bumps in the road. Regardless, it looks like, with these improved selection parameters, I’ll be increasing the number of foreground stars I have to work with (right now I’ve got ~35% more, at least for these two objects), which could lead to improved kinematics analysis.
Yale has a pretty different environment from Haverford. I think I’m the only undergraduate student around in the Astronomy Department (if there are others, they must be kept hidden away somewhere). Most of the people around are grad students and postdocs/researchers and some faculty. It’s been empty in my office a lot, summer is popular for trips and projects abroad. I have gotten to talk to a few grad students though, and I think it’s been helpful. They’ve been telling me a little about life after undergrad, and their experiences here. It’s been a good taste of what I might look for or forward to if I decided to continue to grad school for astronomy. It’s a step up in independence, that’s for sure- in responsibilities, and in research. I definitely still have some questions I’d like to ask, but I’ve made a good start.
Outside of the department, New Haven is alright. I feel a little intimidated, never having been a city person, so I steer clear of the busier streets sometimes. Walking through campus is beautiful, I love the old architecture in a lot of the parts of town and the university. I’m living in a nice neighborhood, with, luckily, a Subway and a Dunkin Donuts within a couple blocks. Unfortunately, New Haven lost its one and only major grocery store a few months ago, so it’s been a challenge, but I get up to one in Hamden (20 minutes north), to stock up when I can get a ride with my roommate.
I hope to spend a few weekends traveling a bit. Last weekend I went down to visit Haverford for a few days, but missed a lot of people, so I may go again. I’d also like to go to NYC while I’m so near, or maybe get up to Boston for a weekend with some friends.
All in all, it’s been a good summer so far. Can’t believe it’s halfway through! I’ll try to write again towards the end of my time here. TTFN, ta-ta for now!