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A ‘Stellar’ Summer at Juniata

Summer Research in Physics

Before coming to Juniata, I hadn’t thought I would or could do physics research as an undergraduate. Luckily, I was proven wrong! This past summer, I had the opportunity to work in the physics department on an awesome project involving stars! My job was to collect and analyze data on binary stars, systems of two stars that orbit around each other. The data I used was photometric, meaning it related the intensity of the light my target stars gave off. Along with another girl in my department, we created light curves which graph the star system’s brightness across time. We completed a total of six curves this summer. From these curves, we found estimates for the system’s period and measures in the differences between their maxima (when the system is brightest). In the future, we can also use this data to calculate estimates for the mass-ratio and temperature of these stars.

This may sound boring to some, but my job didn’t just consist of graphing points on a curve! My research partner and I read papers, learned how to use new software, assembled telescopes, aligned those telescopes, learned about new constellations, and showed other students craters on the moon. While a fair bit of our work involved clicking buttons, we also got to travel and do some more hands on work. We collected data using a set of remotely-operated telescopes at the Sparks Farm Robotic Observatory which is owned by the college. Sometimes, our tech broke, so we drove down and spent the night running scripts and unscrewing things. By the end, I had mastered the art of falling asleep in a car.

Summer on Campus

Though Juniata is a small school, plenty of other research students were around this summer. Every Wednesday, research students would break from their work and meet in the von Liebig Center for Science. These afternoons, we listened to alumni and postdocs share their research findings and experience. They worked on everything from how nuts affect your gut flora to how birds in the Galapagos are becoming resistant to antibiotics. It was super interesting to hear from alumni, one of whom was actually a Goldwater Fellow. And the lunches were catered! We mainly got lunch from Lil New York, which never disappointed (except maybe for the olives in the empanadas…).

Beyond meeting for weekly lunches, the research students on campus met with those studying at the Field Station for s’mores and canoeing at Raystown Lake. Even though the lake is manmade, the area is super beautiful! Paddling through the mountains after scarfing down four s’mores was incredibly relaxing. Some of us also celebrated the 5th of July with other students working as tour guides on campus.

Presenting My Research

As the summer fun and research wrapped up, it was time to present! My research partner and I presented our findings at the Landmark Research Symposium, a symposium for undergraduate researchers belonging to Juniata’s sports conference. I was nervous for my first real research presentation—especially one online—but it went well! My partner and I successfully fielded questions from professors and some chemistry students. Our sponsor has plans for us to present at an AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) meeting, along with the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics and National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Though I’m super excited to present at more conferences, I still can’t believe our work is quality enough to do so!

Funding

Finally, a note about funding. Juniata has many opportunities for funding summer research, whether through department money or through other programs. Half of stipend was paid through the department, while the other half came from the Student Scholarly Initiative at Juniata. The SSI exists to offer assistance with research and travel funds. As a recipient of such assistance, I have the privilege and obligation of presenting at Juniata’s Liberal Arts Symposium. This is a spring event in which Juniatians can present their research and theses via poster or presentation to other students and professors.            

I’m grateful to my department and sponsor for this research opportunity. This semester, I plan to continue observation on new targets visible in Pennsylvania’s winter sky. To other students, especially in the sciences, reach out to your professors for research opportunities. Professors are almost always willing to take you on their projects. The experience is well worth it, especially at Juniata.

Addendum: “I Worked On a Senior’s Capstone Film”

Daniel Muleady
Daniel Muleady ’22, Multimedia Production and Analysis POE, My Mom Thinks I’m Special

The editing crew ended up spending a lot of nights grinding out the rest of the project to make sure that it could be completed in time for the Creators Club film night (if you want to watch the final product along with the many other great films that were premiered at this incredible event, you can watch the lineup here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMRXshcDiwQ).

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Why I chose Juniata

Tessa Senel
Tessa Senel ’21, Professional Writing POE

Growing up in New Jersey, I had never heard of Juniata before. While I was in high school, students were always talking about big state schools and other public universities—but small schools were never mentioned. It wasn’t until my high school hosted a “college and career fair” back in 2015, that Juniata College became a name that I would never forget.

As I was walking around my high school’s “college and career fair” I noticed that the tables with Admissions Counselors from state schools were overcrowded with students trying to talk to them. As I was walking, I noticed one table that had nobody standing around it—and that table had a banner hanging from it that read, “Juniata College.” I decided to give this school a try. As I approached, the Admissions Counselor from Juniata greeted me with the biggest smile that I had seen that day and they enthusiastically welcomed me to their table. They told me about Juniata’s “Program of Emphasis (POE)” system, which allows you to individualize your degree and make it your own. Then, the Admissions Counselor told me about Juniata’s immersive learning environment. Immediately I was awestruck by Juniata—the Admissions Counselor was enthusiastically helping me, the curriculum seemed personal, and the community appeared to be extremely friendly.

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My Thoughts on Liberal Arts Symposium

Rebecca Case
Rebecca Case ’22, Professional Writing POE, Currently listening to whatever song is stuck in my head

Liberal Arts Symposium, or LAS, is often called the Mountain Day of the Mind, and is a day where classes are cancelled so that students can present their academic projects that they have been working on over the academic year. Students are free to listen in on any presentation or to browse the posters that their peers have made. It’s a wonderful day to absorb exciting information and to appreciate all of the work that Juniata students have accomplished over the academic year!

I’m a junior, and I was unfortunately unable to go to LAS my freshman year. However, during my sophomore year, I was able to present one of my research papers for a class called The Metaverse, under the communications department. While this was an incredible experience, this year I was even more excited because it was the first year that I was able to fully enjoy listening in on some of the presentations.

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I Worked On a Senior’s Capstone Film by Daniel Muleady ’22 | Student Vlog |

Juniata Admission
Juniata Admission

I had the chance to work on Alyosha Perez’s senior capstone project – “The Screen Between Us.” Here’s what happened.