OPPORTUNITIES FOR UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH
Participation in research is a critical part of undergraduate
education. I greatly benefitted from my own involvement in several
projects while an undergraduate, and I have supervised student
researchers at Penn State University and at the College of Charleston.
Undergraduate research has become a virtual requirement for acceptance
into graduate school, and students embarking on other career paths also
benefit from the practical experience.
I have provided scientific supervision and financial support for over 30 student researchers. My broad research interests and many funded programs (over $2 million has been
awarded on programs for which I am the principal investigator) provide
a wide selection of opportunities for undergraduate students. These
include using modern data analysis tools for image processing and
spectroscopic analysis as well as the planing and carrying out of
multiwavelength, international, space-based and ground-based
astronomical observations. I can also provide opportunities for
students seeking to develop instrumentation, computational, and
I am conducting observations that permit us to study magnetic activity
in late-type stars by indirectly IMAGING their surfaces using
high-resolution spectra. I am also probing the circumstellar
environment in candidate PROTO-PLANETARY systems. These active and
funded observing programs are conducted remotely using various
spacecraft (e.g. the Hubble Space Telescope, the International
Ultraviolet Explorer, the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer) and from
various ground-based optical (e.g. Kitt Peak National Observatory in
Arizona, Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, McDonald
Observatory in Texas, Mt. Stromlo Observatory in Australia) and radio
observatories (e.g. National Radio Astronomy Observatory/VLA in New
Many of these programs involve coordinated multiwavelength observations
using many facilities. Others involve establishing a network of
similar instruments on telescopes scattered in longitude in order to
secure continuous observations from the ground for several days.
Students will have an opportunity to participate in these
international, multiwavelength, and multifacility programs. Major
international campaigns are arranged nearly every year, so students
likely would gain first-hand knowledge of the complicated logistics
involved, would be able to interact with scientists at foreign
institutions, and would become familiar with a large number of
Students learn modern data reduction and analysis techniques using
available software. They gain a working knowledge of IRAF/SDAS or AIPS
(depending on their interest) and perform more complex data analysis
tasks using IDL-based software packages. The latter are structured so
that students could feasibly develop useful, special purpose analysis
software. Available data sets include satellite data, radio data, and
ground-based spectroscopy (echelle spectra and high-resolution Ca II
ASTROPHYSICAL THEORY and COMPUTATIONAL ASTROPHYSICS
Opportunities for detailed theoretical investigations frequently arise
through the analysis of the data sets mentioned above. The primary
motivation for imaging stellar outer atmospheres, for example, is to
isolate the emission from discreet, magnetically- active regions. The
spectrum of the active region then serve as input to semi-emprical
atmospheric modeling codes. These atmospheric models, in turn, permit
us to evaluate various energy storage, transport, and release
mechanisms. These sometimes take exotic forms, such as flares that are
millions of times more energetic than solar flares. Many of these have
been observed in the ultraviolet spectra obtained with various
spacecraft, and present models based on solar flares and flares from
dwarf stars simply do not fit the observed parameters.
The procedure for deriving surface images from a series of high-
resolution spectra is based on the inverse imaging problem, frequently
called Doppler imaging. While this problem has been studied in detail
for stellar photospheres, many questions must be resolved before the
photospheric Doppler imaging techniques can be applied to ultraviolet
spectra to give high-quality images of stellar outer atmospheres.
These can be addressed by constructing a numerical inversion code
(using, for example, maximum entropy) and numerical model atmospheres
and then evaluating a large number of simulations.
INSTRUMENTATION DESIGN and OBSERVATIONAL TECHNIQUES
I am managing the local observatory, which houses a 16" DFM telescope.
We have several CCD's, filter wheels, and spectrographs. There is
abundant opportunity for students with instrumentation skills (or
students who would like to develop them) and computer skills to help me
interface instrumentation with this telescope and use develop
scientific programs that can make use of a telescope this size inside
of a city (there are some interesting programs.
We are also involved in a consortium that has installed a new telescope in St. Thomas, USVI.
Several students have spent time down there working with the existing
telescope. There is now a great opportunity for students to help us
get it up and running.
A GREENHOUSE GAS AUDIT OF THE COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON
We have completed an audit of the greenhouse
gas emissions due to all activities at the College of Charleston.
Four students have been employed full-time during the past
few summers to complete this work. The final report
is available on-line at CofC's
last modified... 8 June 2005
by... James E. Neff,