Enhancing Astronomy Major Learning Through Group Research Projects
American Astronomical Society, AAS Meeting #221, #255.08
Published in Jan 2013
The University of Arizona Astronomy Club has been using group research projects to enhance the learning experience of undergraduates in astronomy and related fields. Students work on two projects that employ a peer-mentoring system so they can learn crucial skills and concepts necessary in research environments. Students work on a transiting exoplanet project using the 1.55-meter Kuiper Telescope on Mt. Bigelow in Southern Arizona to collect near-UV and optical wavelength data. The goal of the project is to refine planetary parameters and to attempt to detect exoplanet magnetic fields by searching for near-UV light curve asymmetries. The other project is a survey that utilizes the 12-meter Arizona Radio Observatory on Kitt Peak to search for the spectroscopic signature of infall in nearby starless cores. These are unique projects because students are involved throughout the entire research process, including writing proposals for telescope time, observing at the telescopes, data reduction and analysis, writing papers for publication in journals, and presenting research at scientific conferences. Exoplanet project members are able to receive independent study credit for participating in the research, which helps keep the project on track. Both projects allow students to work on professional research and prepare for several astronomy courses early in their academic career. They also encourage teamwork and mentor-style peer teaching, and can help students identify their own research projects as they expand their knowledge.
(c) 2013: American Astronomical Society