AAS 196th Meeting, June 2000
Session 14. SOFIA, Clusters, Education and History
Oral, Monday, June 5, 2000, 10:00-11:30am, Highland C/H

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[14.05] The Trident Scholar Program: Year-Long Undergraduate Research Projects at the United States Naval Academy

D. M. Katz-Stone, D. T. Campbell (US Naval Academy)

The Trident Scholar Program allows undergraduate students at the U.S. Naval Academy to carry out advanced-level research in their senior year. This program was begun in 1963 and has provided an important opportunity for the most elite students, with five to fifteen students out of a class of a thousand participating each year.

The program gives students the opportunity to explore all aspects of scientific research. First, the prospective scholar must write a proposal for the project. The student defends the proposal in front of two committees: a division-level committee as well as an academy-wide committee. Finally, the project must gain approval from the Academic Dean and Provost. Once approved, the Trident Scholar may be awarded a small budget and is released from some course credits. In addition, the academy-wide committee makes on-sight inspections midyear. At the end of the year, each Trident Scholar must write a professional-quality paper, create a display presentation and give an oral presentation to the whole Academy.

With these goals in mind, MIDN Campbell decided to pursue a hands-on project using the newly renovated observatory. He found a project that was both scientifically interesting and doable on a short timescale.

An Earth impact with an asteroid has potentially devastating consequences. In order to avoid global destruction, astronomers have been attempting to map out the orbits of all possibly hazardous Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for the past two decades. Although there are a number of astronomers devoted to discovering new NEAs, there are very few who are tracking these discoveries, therefore many recently identified NEAs are routinely lost. Therefore, a Trident Scholar Project tracking NEAs is both a service to the astronomy community as well as an important experience for the student.

MIDN Campbell completed his scientific goals, and along the way he improved the observatory at the U. S. Naval Academy. Most importantly, this experience has helped him to develop a much deeper appreciation for the nature of scientific inquiry.

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