Monday, May 16, 2016

Welcome to TAURUS!

The heat has set in and most undergrads have fled campus.  This means the UT astronomy department is getting ready to host the inaugural class of TAURUS scholars in Austin!  They’re not here for another month or so, but we’re busy behind the scenes getting things ready.  Computers, living space, work space, seminar schedule, trip to McDonald Observatory, and social events.

The TAURUS program (a somewhat contrived but well-motivated acronym, the “Texas Astronomy: University Research experience for Undergraduate Students") will soon host 5 nation-wide undergraduate scholars who are interested in pursuing careers in astronomy and astrophysics research.  Our scholars are incredibly talented, motivated undergraduates and our goal is to fuel their success through opportunity.  TAURUS is particularly dedicated to serving students from underserved and historically marginalized groups, elevating their voices, and building scientific identity via a strong sense of community.

Over the course of the upcoming summer, TAURUS students will conduct independent research projects with UT-based research mentors, be immersed in a series of seminars and workshops designed to enhance their scientific skillset, help design and conduct observing programs at McDonald Observatory, and practice communication through written and oral presentations.  The network of UT graduate students, postdocs, staff and faculty also aim to guide TAURUS scholars through the graduate school application process to prepare them for top astronomy graduate programs around the country and world.

Now, about our acronym.  TAURUS, of course is reference to the constellation of Taurus the bull, a well-known and ancient constellation in the sky, housing two of the closest star clusters to Earth, both the Hyades and Pleiades, and Messier 1, the Crab Nebula, the best-known supernova known to humans.  But it holds extra relevance to the University of Texas, whose mascot is Bevo, a Texas longhorn steer.  UT is pretty proud of Bevo, and the link to his ancient astronomical counterpart Taurus was too good to pass up.  Now, back to TAURUS preparations!