AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 154. The Undergraduate Astronomy Major: What and Why?
Special Session Oral, Thursday, January 10, 2002, 2:00-3:30pm, Georgetown East

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[154.04] The Role of Research in an Astronomy or Astrophysics Major

J. M. Pasachoff (Williams College and Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

Undergraduates have proven capable of substantial research success in the hundreds of projects undertaken at both Williams College and over the past decade at its associated institutions in the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium: Wellesley, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Colgate, Vassar, Haverford, and Swarthmore. We consider the undergraduate research to be central to our astronomy and astrophysics major programs. Research opportunities of underclass years, usually during summers, often help students decide to major in astronomy or astrophysics. The senior thesis research is often a highpoint of the undergraduate educational experience while nonthesis projects often also prove valuable for students assessing their interests and careers. Many of the projects have been on campus while others are at national observatories or in other non-local research programs. Our Keck consortium has included a student summer exchange in which 12-16 students, usually after their sophomore or junior years, undertake research projects at member institutions other than their own. The results are reported at a student research symposium each fall, with approximately 35 research papers delivered; the proceedings are available. See http://www.astro.wellesley.edu/keck/.

Institutions such as those in the consortium, with typical enrollments of 1100-2800, have been shown to generate a higher rate of attainment of science professional degrees than universities. Of course, many students at universities also benefit from undergraduate research opportunities during their undergraduate careers. Whether at colleges at universities, the personal contact and opportunity to transfer one's abilities from book learning to independent investigation can be invaluable in preparing students for their post-undergraduate lives.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.astro.wellesley.edu/keck/. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

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