Publication Date

The Undergraduate ALFALFA Team
The National Science Foundation
Division of Astronomical Sciences, Special Programs in Astronomy
Award Amount: $437,883 | Effective Dates: 09/01/2012 – 08/31/2015 | Award ID: AST-1211005
Project Personnel: Principal Investigator Rebecca Koopman (Physics & Astronomy)
Project Summary:  The Undergraduate ALFALFA Team (UAT), a consortium of 19 undergraduate-focused institutions from across the United States, is conducting a multi-faceted program of student training, faculty development, and public outreach that is integrated into the Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA (where ALFA refers to the Arecibo L-band Feed Array detector) collaboration. ALFALFA surveys the local Universe for neutral hydrogen (HI) sources external to the Milky Way using the seven-beam ALFA receiver on the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope. It has detected more than 20,000 galaxies, resulting in a wide range of scientific applications. UAT students and faculty participate through several program components: (1) The Annual UAT Workshop at Arecibo Observatory communicates ALFALFA and HI science via lectures, observing sessions, and group work led by team faculty, graduate and advanced undergraduate students, and Arecibo Observatory staff. (2) Observing at Arecibo provides students and faculty with hands-on experience at a world-class national facility. (3) Computer infrastructure ensures the success of researchers at smaller schools. (4) Intellectually engaging research projects are supported via a summer research program, academic year advising by faculty mentors, and travel to meetings to present results. (5) Collaborative research projects in coordination with the ALFALFA PIs provide students and faculty with transformative research experiences while demonstrating the modern collaborative model of scientific interactions. Through the UAT program, students and faculty mentors at a diverse set of universities, both public and private, participate directly and collaboratively in observations at a major national observatory and analyze survey data to contribute to the science goals of a legacy survey. The direct participation of undergraduate students in research projects enhances their education and intellectual development. The collaborative nature of the program, supported by appropriate computer infrastructure and communication media, enables students and faculty to participate effectively in data analysis and remote observing. The program builds connections between staff at Arecibo Observatory and faculty and students at the participating US institutions. The project develops publicly available materials that enhance the undergraduate astronomy curriculum for both science and non-science majors.