Monday, August 15, 2016

A tearful TAURUS goodbye!

The TAURUS students and Caitlin Casey (aka "research mom") on the last day of the 2016 TAURUS program.

The start of this week around the UT Astronomy Department is a little more quiet than it has been. We said goodbye to our 2016 TAURUS cohort at the end of last week.  The nine weeks passed by far to quickly for everyone.  Though it was a tearful day, it was also a day of great celebration.  The TAURUS Scholars have each accomplished so much in their time at UT Austin, and we had the opportunity to celebrate their hard work at our inaugural TAURUS Symposium!

Each of our scholars presented their work in a ten minute talk to a packed lecture room, fielding tough questions from the audience and occasionally cracking a joke.  Here are they are pictured in action:

Danielle Rowland, An Investigation of the Initial Mass Function, worked with Steve Finkelstein

Derek Holman, Galaxy Mergers in Overdense Environments, worked with Chao-Ling Hung

Jennifer Medina, Calculating Rotational Velocities of Planet-Hosting Young Stars, worked with Andrew Mann

Elizabeth GutiƩrrez, The Dynamical Modeling of Solar Twins, worked with Ivan Ramirez

Isaiah Tristan, Potential Host Stars of for Free-Floating Planets, worked with Brendan Bowler

 The talks were phenomenal, and the supervisors agreed -- the scholars blew them away in terms of the progress they made and how much they had learned in nine short weeks.  Thankfully this isn't the last time us at UT will see them in action!  All of our scholars are preparing to attend the annual winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which this year will be held in Grapevine, TX.  We can't wait for the reunion, and an opportunity for the TAURUS scholars to network with other undergraduate astronomy researchers and potential graduate schools.

It is also important to reflect on the entire year of planning TAURUS that led up to the symposium day: from the first murmurs of starting a pilot REU program last fall, we gained some steam through a small internal grant (many thanks to the Cox Endowment Fund!) and a slew of folks who have dedicated countless hours of their time and resources to ensure the TAURUS scholars had a rewarding experience.  All of the following members of the Astronomy Department/ McDonald Observatory played some role in the success of TAURUS, so we would like to acknowledge their commitments here (bold/underlined names are those who dedicated quite a bit of time):

Taft Armandroff, Brendan Bowler, Mike Boylan-Kolchin, Brandon Bozek, Caitlin Casey, Anita Cochran, Harriet Dinerstein, Joanne Duffy, Trent Dupuy, Lara Eakins, Mike Endl, Cyndi Froning, Keely Finkelstein, Steven Finkelstein, Kristen Hogan, Chao-Ling Hung, Briana Indahl, Shardha Jogee, Intae Jung, Adam Kraus, Rebecca Larson, Hanshin Lee, Rachael Livermore, Jessica Luna,  Andrew Mann, Sinclaire Manning, Raquel Martinez, Jacob McLane, Adam McKay, Kristen McQuinn, Eva Noyola, Kelly Quinney, Ivan Ramirez, Jeremy Ritter, Aaron Rizzuto, Anthony Seekatz, Sydney Sherman, Jeff Silverman, Aaron Smith, Chris Sneden, Estela Sosa, Emma Yu.

We are eager to continue the program in the years to come, pending additional support. The program  has not only benefited the scholars themselves, but also built a sense of summer community for the astronomy department at UT Austin and McDonald Observatory which is incredibly valuable.

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