Better late than never! My three-week experience thus far

Good late-rotation of Earth!

I go by Lepore, and it’s been a wild few weeks here at Stanford.

I took an airplane ride over on June 29th, and I got my workout for the month by hefting a suitcase above my head to the overhead bins and then having to bring it back down an hour later without giving any bystanders a concussion. Luckily, I was accepted into this program for astrophysics research and not an athletics scholarship in suitcase-atics. Yet I was soon to find that my stay here was actually going to be a mix of the two as I lugged three suitcases up three flights of stairs. But for all of it’s work, the house was perfect.

My habitat for eight weeks!

My room is lovely and my roommates are lovelier! Though I swear, this house looks green in the day but blue in the night.

As for research, I’m over at the Kavli Institute in the Physics and Astronomy Building. After hours, my ID works as a pass for the sensors outside the building. It feels very James Bond to scan an ID through a wallet without opening it, with the door beeping and unlocking to open to empty hallways and dim lights. Maybe a little more Quartermaster considering I have a cubicle and not a sports car, but Quartermaster also doesn’t die all the time in movies so I’m more than happy with this.

Me at my workplace via Android’s terrible front-facing camera. Please enjoy all three pixels.

Upon getting settled, I started research with dark matter simulations with my mentor, Risa Wechsler. Unfortunately, the first two weeks, my emulators of emulators for simulations were crashing harder than a student during finals week. It was a lot of research papers and debugging those weeks. The third week I got a loaner mac and finally got to really dig in.

I traveled over to UCSC to meet with Alexie Leauthaud late last week via the metro and two buses. I had a very productive time! I’ll get more in depth about my research with Risa and Alexie next blog post.

A note: the learning curve is enough to give me whiplash from the centripetal force of driving along it. But it’s so fun along the way, and so, so worth it when I get to finish reading through a research paper and actually understand what I just read. It’s been a long road of google scholar searches, database mining at the Stanford library, research paper recommendations, and (shhhhh…) Wikipedia. And I know I’ve got miles to go before I sleep. But again: so worth it.

I got into astrophysics because space is a terrifying, unknowable abyss and I respect that. It makes me feel so small and insignificant but so awestruck at how much there is to learn and love. Stanford is a lot like that. And I respect that. Let’s see if I get some respect back. Tune in next time!

Stay safe!



Fun during week 4 at the SETI Institute and in the Bay Area

This week had a bit more fun packed into it then the previous weeks. I got to first attend a SETI Talks which are a lectures series put on by the SETI Institute. This months talk we had the pleasure of hearing Jill Tarter and Sarah Scoles talk about their new book called Making Contact. The book is a biography of Jill Tarter’s life. Elliot Gillum and Seth Shostak talked about the new way they will be conducting the search for ET’s via lasers. Where they plan to look at the sky 24/7.  My mentor Dr. Gerry Harp and CEO Bill Diamond also joined the panel to answer a few questions. The next day a few of us REU students went to go watch Spider-man: Homecoming. That was a pretty good movie  as a fan of comic books it was great to see Marvel do great work again. On Friday we got a tour of the Supercomputer facility at NASA Ames. And on Saturday night I had the pleasure of seeing a music performance by a few rap/hip-hop artists at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. I was really excited to see Logic perform and enjoyed Joey Bada$$ perform. Seeing Logic perform was definitely going to be a highlight of  my stay here.


As for my work week it consisted of looking at tons of graphs and trying to find anything that looked interesting. I need to also write scripts that would let the programs I previously wrote do it’s thing while I was not at the institute so I could have something to do when I got back the next day.  So far its going slowly but progress is being made. I have tons of data sets so that is what I will be continuing to do this week and try to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio and get a better graph for each one. I think that is all for now until next time folks.

– Jose Barrios



SETI Talks. Dr. Tarter (left), CEO Bill Diamond (center), and Dr. Gerry Harp (right) talking about alien signals.

SETI talk. MC Dr. Seth Shostak to the far left, Dr. Jill Tarter center, author Sarah Scoles right. Sorry for lighting :/

Supercomputer stuff

Supercomputer stuff again

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium entrance.

People heading to the stage

People heading to the stage

Awful quality photo of a Nikola Tesla statue in Palo Alto

Awful quality photo of a Nikola Tesla statue in Palo Alto

Completion of my 3rd week

Hi Everyone,

Hope everyones summer is going well and your research is progressing along. My name is Dilan and I am from the Bay Area. This summer I am working at UC Irvine under professor Aaron Barth and a graduate student Benjamin Boizelle, who has been a tremendous help in getting me started with my research. This summer I am working with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), which is a radio telescope located in Chile that is designed to image molecular gas kinematics of near by galaxies. The ability to image molecular gas kinematics of near by galaxies is important because  it enables us to probe the mass of black holes. The focus of my project is to create a census of molecular gas in nearby galaxies using the data from the ALMA telescope. Here is an example of a galaxy profile that I worked on:


The name of this galaxy is NGC1332,  is a disk shaped galaxy (very close to elliptical) that is about 80 million light years away from earth. In order to generate this image I have to download data from the ALMA archive and use a IDL program that Benjamin Boizelle wrote to analyze different galaxies. I have done many galaxies and some are great to look at while other are not. The ALAM telescope is a radio telescope that useful in determining the molecular gas in galaxies. Carbon monoxide (CO) is one of the best molecular gas to detect because it has bright emissions  which can be detected by ALMA in order to generate the images above. If you look at the second graph in the middle section, it is called the position velocity diagram, this is an important graph to help measure mass of a black hole. For this particular galaxy the black hole mass was measured to be  about 660 million solar masses, with a measurement uncertainty of about 10% by my professor Aaron Barth.

Aside from doing research, UC Irvine has these workshops which are informative, insightful, and thought provoking all geared towards preparing undergrads for graduate studies.




equinox of Saturn on 2009 revealed giant propeller on Saturn’s A ring

First 3 weeks at MIT!!!

Greetings Everyone!!!

My name is Sierra Garza and I am from southern California. This summer I am at MIT, as part of the Hydrogen Epoch of Re-ionization Array (HERA) project. My few weeks here have been great. Mostly I have been reading a lot of academic papers, to get a better understanding of the S11 signal and the techniques we are using. Aside from reading, I have been in the lab, taking measurements, to analyze and calibrate the effects of the balun that will go on the feed for the antennas.

If all goes as planned, we should be taking a road trip down to the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia next week to test out the low-band feed prototype!Working_with_Balun_in_LabRevere_Statue_with_Old_North_ChurchPaul_Revere_GraveFranklin_GraveSamuel_Adam_GraveJohn_Hancock_Grave

On the weekends, I have been trying to check out the area around here, because I have never been to the east coast. I have been to a Boston Red Socks game. It was very fun rooting for my home team, the LA Angels, in a sea of Boston fans. LA won!

I have also walked the Freedom Trail throughout Boston. It took me past more than a dozen historical sites, including: the old and new city halls, the burial grounds where Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Benjamin Franklin’s parents, and people who came over on the Mayflower and who were victims of the Boston massacre lay to rest. I also saw Paul Revere’s house where he lived and went into the Old North Church, where the two lanterns were hung that night of 1775. At the other end of the freedom trail is the Bunker Hill monument and the USS Constitution (ship).

It’s been great exploring an area that is so rich in history and working on the HERA project!

Days Since ENVI Last Crashed…Welcome Week 4!

Somewhere in between suspending my disbelief that I have a cubicle in NASA Ames and adjusting to working far from home, I have found one thing that threatens to consume me completely- our snazzy but unreliable office software. After a few hours of mapping gullies (I should mention that i’m describing the physical qualities and mineralogy of the gully systems in Mars’ West Palikir Crater), you can imagine that soul-crushing moment when my window just disappears and all I can do is helplessly stare. Yet, I can’t help but laugh it off and persist, I mean when else can I complain about these kind of things? It’s really a privilege to work with my mentor and the research assistants in my office, who are endlessly willing. It’s kind of insane and surreal having extremely brilliant humans teaching you how to draw a line. Also insane: to go from polyline-drawing to having to think of whether the mineralogy of the gully suggests presence of flowing water in the area in the form of brine. Despite my daily technical difficulties, I admit it’s all a rush. In just three weeks, i’ve been taught how to use three different types of software (that basically act as a proxy to old-school geologic mapping and mineral identification) and it’s enough to turn my brain to mush.

This is my happy face.

This is my happy face.

Studying Galaxy Clusters

155AFB67-8D1E-4797-9BC9-9D0E93C25EACToday marks the beginning of my third week here at UCSD working with galaxy clusters. My work has been focused on identifying gravitationally lensed galaxies at redshifts between .3 and 1 that have large HII regions. The idea for this project came from the fact that a lot of astronomers are mainly interested with things at high redshifts, so there is a largely unexplored data at low redshifts. I began this project by combining ground based telescopes and HST data to create detailed fits files and using the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble(CLASH) catalog to create region files that display interesting galaxies and their redshifts. The next step was to go back and visually inspect each of the regions to see whether or not the galaxies actually had HII regions or if the catalog just marked the galaxy’s bulge. I found plenty of interesting galaxies, so I saved their information in an updated region file and created a histogram that displays the redshift vs. frequency. The plot showed that there is a small peak around a redshit of 0.7. Whether or not this is significant information will be determined after we go through another similar catalog called Relics. This week I working with a python code that creates thumbnails of each of the interesting galaxies so that I can present them to my research group at our weekly meeting.

As a side note, San Diego is really nice. I grew up in Northern California (San Francisco), so I didn’t expect things to be very different from back home. It hasn’t gotten unbearably hot over here, just humid on some days. Even on the day that it rained the temperature was nice and the sky quickly cleared up enough to go to the beach and watch the sunset.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 9.00.08 AM

-Brian Merino

My first weeks at SETI

You made it! Welcome to my blog. I’m going to tell myself that I will keep this updated from now on, but we’ll see how that goes.

I am now one third of the way through my 9-week research experience at the SETI Institute and it has been utterly surreal. This internship had been at the top of my list for a while, but I never thought I would actually get it. When I got the news that I would be working with Dr. Franck Marchis on the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), I cried freely and without shame. I told everyone I knew. I told people I didn’t know. I had been researching indirect exoplanet observation methods at my university for a few semesters, but not direct imaging like what GPI does. I was just itching with excitement to dig in to this new cutting-edge area of astronomy.

In my first week, I got acquainted with the SETI office and my workspace. The REU interns’ desks are just down the hall from the office of the SETI chairs, Frank Drake (creator of the Drake Equation, co-designer of the Pioneer Plaque with Carl Sagan) and Jill Tarter (creator of the stellar classification “brown dwarf” and inspiration for Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s Contact). Pretty dang cool. I also got to explore Mountain View with my fellow interns, who are smart and wonderful people.

For the first two weeks, my time was mostly spent reading papers about GPI (pronounced “g-pie”) and pyKLIP, the image processing code that I would be testing and developing for the next two months. I got to visit Stanford for a day to meet with some of the members of the GPI team, and then the next week I went on a        free        trip to Pasadena to meet more folks at CalTech who helped me get into the meat of pyKLIP. I couldn’t get over how crazy it was that somebody thought it was worth the resources to send me, just some guy, all the way to CalTech and back. I am also incredibly grateful to Jean-Baptiste at Stanford and Max at CalTech who are two real-life published professional researchers for using their valuable time to teach me basic terminal commands, among other things more relevant to the project. I hope that I will get the chance to pass that courtesy on when I am in charge of training interns one day.

Entering the third week, I was beginning to mess around with pyKLIP, testing if it was working the way it is intended. Fortunately for me, everything is written in Python, the only programming language I know. It was great to finally write code as a job instead of a distraction from other more important things.

At this point, I had not met my mentor yet. He was still on vacation in France, managing to keep in close email contact, a testament to his work ethic. Then, on the Wednesday afternoon of my third week at SETI, Dr. Franck Marchis arrived to the office in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts as though he had just stepped off the plane and immediately asked me to prepare a few slides about my work over past fortnight. He had a powerful, commanding presence that I will not soon forget. After a few days of talking with him face-to-face, I can see he is patient and attentive to his students and pushes them to produce their best work. I think he will be an excellent mentor and I am happy I am able to work with him. I am however very intimidated.

In conclusion, these have been the three nuttiest weeks of my entire life. I am so thankful to the CAMPARE program for giving me this opportunity and to all the people that helped me get here.

I’ll try to come back next week to maybe talk about how weird living at NASA Ames is, or discuss my project in a little more depth.



Bay Bridge Under The Bay Bridge

WP_20170708_002Bay Bridge Under The Bay Bridge

UC Berkeley HERA Project

Hello everyone!

I am seeing a lot of new faces on this page, so like everyone else who has posted, I will first introduce myself. My name is Jeffrey Salazar and CSUSB is my home institution. This upcoming year will be my last as an applied physics major. It is an exciting time for me right now! This will be my last internship but my last year waiting to go to graduate school. My dream is to become a professor at a teaching university and help create opportunities for minorities in the sciences (much like CAMPARE HERA Astronomy Minority Partnership, CHAMP).

The Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) project deals with a combination of cosmology and radio astronomy. This project is making me realize how interested I am in radio astronomy. One of the best parts of this program is that my mentors here sit down with us once a week and teach us extremely interesting topics in cosmology and radio astronomy. We have learned a small bit about the cosmic microwave background, Friedman’s equation, Baryon acoustic oscillations, and how these topics have motivated HERA!

My task is to simulate a correlator that can be used for the ”beefed up” HERA telescope that will soon be implemented. I have much to thank to my professors at my home institution for preparing me. Here I am being exposed various tools that I know I will use in the future!

I don’t have many pictures (my phone’s camera is horrible!).

The only picture I have of myself:). The exploratorium is an awesome place to go to!

The only picture I have of myself:). The exploratorium is an awesome place to go to!

This is where I come to work. GRE and grad school apps are coming very soon! Winter is coming. (Sorry this is sideways but I can't rotate it.)

This is where I come to work. GRE and grad school apps are coming very soon! Winter is coming. (Sorry this is sideways but I can’t rotate it.)