Works and Days



Astronomy at the University of Michigan: Lizzy Arellano, Winter Shadow 2016

Going to dinner

The winter shadow that I had the pleasure of going to was far more fulfilling than I ever thought it could be.  My hosts were very kind.  Their homes were beautiful and their hospitality was very much appreciated.  Ann Arbor, Michigan, was one of the most beautiful and easy to get around towns that I’ve ever visited. Mario Mateo’s house was about 2 miles from the University of Michigan, where Sarah and I worked most of the time.  We found ourselves really looking forward to the walks every day.  Not only was it really nice to pass through the urban and suburban areas of Ann Arbor, but it also gave us an opportunity to explore the downtown more.  The food was delicious, the sights were see-worthy, and the snow was puffy. I feel so grateful to have received this externship because I will have otherwise never been able to visit Michigan.

As for the actual project, it was a great experience overall. Not only did I learn a lot of Python, a coding language, but also, I gained experience as an intern. I learned about the actual process of working with a data set and getting real results from my work that could actually contribute to scientific process.  Because we were using data from the Magellan Clay Telescope in Chile, where each fiber attached to a plate referred to a specific star in the star cluster, Omega Centauri, we were working off Mateo’s idea of a new way of star cluster analysis. We had to be very careful with our calculations, checking and rechecking for the expected results. We had to generalize our coding, so that when new data comes in, it could be analyzed using the same programs and so that people all over the world would have the opportunity to do the same type of analysis. At the end of our externship, our work rewarded us with a complete spectrum of the stars we analyzed, which allowed Mateo to analyze the spectral lines for different elements contained in the stars.

Astronomy at the University of Michigan: Sarah Racz, Winter Shadow 2016

The first thing I did when I found out I was accepted for the Winter Shadow program in Astronomy at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor was look into getting a parka. I was excited to visit Ann Arbor for the first time, and really hoping for some snow.

I stayed in Ann Arbor for a week, and left with unending love for what has become my favorite diner of all time.

I worked with a Mario Mateo, who is an astronomer at the University of Michigan. The project I worked on sought to measure the dependence of the magnitudes of RR Lyrae stars upon metal abundance. RR Lyrae stars are variable stars, known for having short periods. All the stars we observed were from the globular cluster Omega Centauri, which is a cluster known for having a range in the metallicities of its stars. All the data was from a telescope in La Serena, Chile that Mario had built. During the week I wrote several scripts in Python to read from huge files of data and run data analysis.

Reed Winter Externship Reflections 14: Number Twenty Two, Saturday Academy, Sam Underwood

I participated in a weeklong externship with Saturday Academy, an educational non-profit established in 1983 and based in Portland. Saturday Academy’s mission is to provide supplemental learning opportunities to kids from second grade through high school. Saturday Academy organizes over five hundred classes a year, all taught by experts from the community. Saturday Academy states that their emphasis is on science, technology, engineering and math—but a quick peek at their website shows a vast array of classes in all fields, from writing to engineering to acting. This was information I knew as I headed to my externship on the first day. What I didn’t know was that the entire organization is run by just a handful of people. Just thirteen, to be exact. Over my week at Saturday Academy I observed an efficient, enthusiastic, and creative team working hard to providing learning opportunities to bright young students.

My first task as an extern involved Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) program. The ASE program matches up promising high school students with industry mentors. The students spend the summer in labs or in the field, working with their mentors. In January, the industry mentors had just submitted blurbs describing the work their high school-aged interns will be doing this coming summer. In addition to proof-reading these blurbs, I vetted their wording to make sure subtle gender bias wasn’t implicit in the language chosen by the writers. As it turns out, gender bias in job descriptions is a persisting issue and data indicate this wording-bias contributes to women being underrepresented in STEM fields. Saturday Academy is deeply dedicated to providing opportunity to all children, including those historically underrepresented in STEM.

Jeri Janowsky, Saturday Academy’s director, told me that a goal of Saturday Academy is to frame education as something that doesn’t have to end when the school day ends, but rather, to frame education as a dynamic, continuing experience throughout life. I strongly embrace this perspective, and Saturday Academy is embodying the idea that education can take place even after the last school bell rings. My time at Saturday Academy was encouraging and motivational—seeing an organization with such an important message flourishing gives me (otherwise absent) high hopes for the future of education in the U.S.