Erica Keller

Shooting for the Stars in Astronomical Research

The National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) program is a highly competitive internship opportunity that often requires prior research experience. Although I had not participated in any formal astronomy research, I was able to foster professional working relationships with professors at Mount Holyoke and UMass, and use my experience as a lab TA to obtain an internship researching astrophysics at the University of Wyoming. During the summer, I learned computer programming, became a lead observer at a research-level telescope, and successfully drove up and down a mountain after working through the night. My research group was able to identify 25 new binary star systems in which there are 2 or more stars orbiting each other. This experience has allowed me to expand my connections in the field of astronomy by learning how to write for a professional journal, and ultimately presenting a poster at a nationwide research conference.