AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 19 Focus on Undergraduate Astronomy
Poster, Monday, January 5, 2004, 9:20am-6:30pm, Grand Hall

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[19.08] Astronomical Research at Valdosta State University

K.S. Rumstay, M.A. Leake, C. Barnbaum (Valdosta State University and SARA)

Valdosta State University, a mid-sized primarily undergraduate institution, is located seventeen miles north of the Florida border. Campus observing facilities include a 0.4-m Cassegrain optical telescope, twin 3-m radio dishes, and a variety of portable optical telescopes. Unfortunately, our humid climate and local light pollution make our campus a far-from-ideal observing sight. Fortunately we are a charter member of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA), which operates a remotely-accessible 0.9-m telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. VSU faculty and students are therefore able to make optical observations at a site far superior to any in the southeast.

The three astronomers on the VSU faculty are actively engaged in research on a wide variety of topics. M. Leake is surveying primitive C-class asteroids using low resolution spectroscopy, to detect water of hydration. Light curve photometry helps to establish rotation periods and orientations of those asteroids. She is also studying small-scale features on the surface of Europa, using Galileo imagery. C. Barnbaum studies evolved stars, specializing in abundances of s-process elements and carbon isotope ratios. She also is involved with collaborators at NRAO in the development of adaptive filter technology, a new way to deal with radio frequency interference. Since 1995 K. Rumstay has used the SARA telescope to monitor long-term optical variability in a sample of twelve Seyfert and broad-line radio galaxies. He has also studied the spatial distribution of dust grains within evolved galactic HII regions.

We are strongly committed to undergraduate involvement in our research. Valdosta State is the only member of the University System of Georgia which offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy (the University of Georgia at Athens offers a degree in Physics and Astronomy); consequently, we attract a number of highly-qualified students who have been active participants in the projects described above. In addition, more than a dozen students from schools around the country have participated in our research through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program operated by SARA.

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