The last post to this blog was just as we were wrapping up the 2019 program. Little did we know we'd wait over a year to welcome the next class of TAURUS Scholars, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID has been hard for everyone, but the impact on our undergraduate students is unique. Four (or five, or six) years isn't very long to launch from high school at one end to college graduation on the other, dreaming about your long-term plans and career goals. COVID took out 1.5 years of really important time for this generation of students. TAURUS made the difficult decision last spring to call off the 2020 program, because we just knew that conducting research remotely just wasn't the same as our in person program. One of the primary goals of TAURUS is community building. The bonds you make with other scholars, your mentors, and other connections just can't be reproduced over zoom. So we postponed, crossing our fingers all year long that we could return in person for 2021.
Miraculously we're here, and we are so grateful for that. Our 2020 class of TAURUS Scholars waited a long time to meet each other and start their projects; they were joined by several additional 2021 TAURUS Scholars to form the 2021 class -- our fifth cohort of TAURUS Scholars and the biggest group yet!
The road to an in-person program has been long and challenging, and this year's scholars are still faced with additional hurdles unique to their year -- they had to quarantine for a week in the residence halls and start the program on zoom, get a COVID PCR test on campus, and they have limited access to the kitchen due to safety restrictions (grr, we're working on it!). On top of that they get to learn python, astrophysics, and how to work toward their own research goals. But the most important thing is that they're here, they're working on amazing science projects, and they're an amazing group. They are:
Diana Gonzalez-Argueta, from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, working with Prof. Caroline Morley
Rebeca Soto Armendariz, from Angelo State University working with Prof. Brendan Bowler
Carlos Garcia Diaz, from Delaware State University working with Prof. Karl Gebhardt
Imani Dindy, from Oklahoma State University working with Dr. Justin Spilker
Stefany Fabian Dubon, from Bryn Mawr College working with Prof. Danielle Berg and Dr. Karla Arellano-Córdova
Karina Kimani-Stewart, from Texas Tech University working with Dr. Michael Gully-Santiago and Prof. Caroline Morley
Amanda Lue, from Colgate University working with Dr. David Guszejnov and Prof. Stella Offner
Natalia Garza Navarro, from Agnes Scott College working with Dr. David Wilson
Mateo Guerra Toro, from Missouri State University working with Dr. Yifan Zhou
Mikayla Wilson, from Texas Christian University working with Dr. Ben Tofflemire
Over the next few weeks we'll be introducing them to you one by one so you get to know them better. Stay tuned!
And of course, this first post of the year is happening on an auspicious day -- Juneteenth, the day we celebrate when news of the end of slavery reached the state of Texas. Even though it's finally and rightly now celebrated at a national level, Juneteenth has special meaning here in Texas, and especially in Austin where the first celebrations of the day were held in 1872. Last year Juneteenth too was sadly only online, but today there's a parade in East Austin where the energy is palpable and jubilant. Celebrate with family, friends, and take the opportunity to find and patronize Black-owned business near you! Here's a great starting point for businesses in Austin.