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Astronomy Research Opportunities for Undergraduate Students at the Maria Mitchell Observatory

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Academic Level:
Undergraduates - Sophomore
Undergraduates - Junior
Undergraduates - Senior

For more than 50 years, the Maria Mitchell Observatory (MMO) has offered summer research opportunities in astronomy and astrophysics for students on the beautiful island of Nantucket.

Students at the MMO work on individualized research projects under the guidance of an experienced astronomer. Current areas of research include: formation and evolution of stars and galaxies; groups and clusters of galaxies; stellar populations; stars clusters; astrophysical masers and lasers; cosmology and the early universe; history and culture of astronomy.

Research at MMO emphasizes state-of-the-art data reduction techniques and thoughtful physical interpretation. Data for student projects are obtained from Hubble Space Telescope, leading ground-based telescopes around the world, and next generation surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Students also develop their hands-on observational skills with the MMO's 24" and 17" research telescopes. Most MMO student interns become authors or co-authors of papers published in scientific journals, and 60% go on to graduate school to obtain a PhD.

The MMO's REU program also helps students develop their public speaking and presentation skills through weekly scientific seminars, outreach events such as stargazing nights at the Loines Observatory, and other activities aimed at developing their abilities as science communicators.

The Maria Mitchell Observatory is a recognized leader in training the next generation of astronomers. Since its inception in 1957, hundreds of undergraduate students have discovered the joy of doing astronomical research surrounded by the natural beauty of Nantucket island. Many have gone on to successful careers as astronomers at leading universities, observatories and other organizations around the world. In fact, an estimated 5% of all American women PhDs in astronomy today acquired their first research experience at the MMO. In 2009, the Maria Mitchell Association received the highly prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring for its half-century long program of mentoring undergraduate student research in astronomy.

Participating Institution(s):
(Click an institution to see all programs it hosts)
Maria Mitchell Association (Lead)

Program Materials:
 • Program Website 

This Program can be Described by:
Academic Disciplines:
Astronomy & Astrophysics
STEM Fields

Questions about this program?
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This program is funded by:
National Science Foundation (NSF)

Page last updated 10/27/2016
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