Cornell University NASA NY Space Grant

Award Date: April 2011


Associate Professor of Physics Rebecca Koopmann continues her work with partnering institutions involved in the NASA NY Space Grant, administered through Cornell University.  This $10,000 grant is supplemented by additional Union College institutional support to advance student research projects, and outreach programs to local secondary schools and high school teachers.  Additionally, the grant provides funds for observational data for analysis by at least one of the Space Grant researchers, obtained through the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) at Cerro Tololo, Chile.


     The Union College program seeks to provide information, training and experience to a diverse group of students, enhancing their skills and knowledge so they can make educated choices regarding their future in STEM disciplines. To meet this goal, our objectives are: (i) to provide as many opportunities as possible for undergraduate students to participate in a STEM research project; (ii) to increase participation of under-represented groups; (iii) to provide opportunities to present research findings at regional and national forums; (iv) to provide training in oral and written communication and research ethics; and (v) to provide information relating to career opportunities in STEM fields.    

     The objectives for students who participate in the summer research program are threefold: to participate in a STEM research project; to engage in the summer seminar program at Union College; and to present their findings at a local, regional or national conference.  By dedicating Space Grant funds mainly to student research support, we maximize the number of participants each summer. In addition, at least one other student will apply for college-sponsored research support as match.   On-campus presentations and summer seminars provide a natural forum for these projects, as well as help students gain exposure to the variety of other science and engineering projects on campus. Space Grant awardees will participate in Union's active summer student seminar program, which features talks or posters by each student researcher.

     Outreach activities include the Union College Society of Physics Students, partnering with Union College's Kenney Community Center, formatting of a demonstration team that has been actively involved in reaching out to the local secondary schools for the past two years.  Also, the Department of Physics and Astronomy has hosted the Union College Physical Constants Workshop for high school physics teachers and students. Teachers and students from regional high schools work in teams with Union College Physics and Astronomy faculty and advanced undergraduates to perform experiments to measure fundamental physical constants. They gain experience with modern instrumentation and laboratory techniques such as high-resolution video analysis, scattering experiments with a particle accelerator and scanning electron microscopy.