Caltech ZTF Summer Undergraduate Astronomy Institute

For the second year in a row, we have offered the ZTF Summer Undergraduate Astronomy Institute. The program is funded by our NSF grant for ZTF, and brings together 16 students from Caltech SURF projects and from Pomona SURP projects. You can see more information at our web site at

This year we were joined by two students from Williams College, one from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and one from Howard University. The group had a dazzling amount of intellectual and cultural diversity, with students hailing from Albania, Turkey, India, China, Italy, and the US, and from institutions that included Lafayette College, Princeton, Pomona, Yale-NUS College, Williams, and Caltech. The students really bonded and got to know each other. The program excels because of this chance for students to reflect on their careers and their trajectory as scientists. We give them many opportunities to know Caltech scientists at all levels – graduate students, postdocs, and professors, and to know each other. The chance to exchange life stories is almost as valuable as their chance to learn more about astronomy!

This year we had two days at Caltech that featured a wonderful mix of talks, lab tours, and events. This year we were joined by two Pomona College alumni – Aditya Sood, producer of The Martian (Pom ’97), and Cameron Hummels, Caltech postdoctoral scholar (Pom ’01). Both gave excellent talks. For Aditya we had a pre dinner talk on his experience producing The Martian , and his influences in science (which included my Pomona astronomy course!). After his talk we had a screening of the Martian in the Caltech auditorium. Cameron is currently sponsoring a Pomona undergraduate in research – Charlie Watson. Both Cameron and Charlie came to astronomy through computer science and it is wonderful to see Cameron’s progress as he has developed a fantastic research program combining the latest supercomputer simulations with direct comparisons with data. Cameron also is able to predict quasar absorption lines from his simulations so I look forward to working with him more as a research collaborator!


Below is the schedule for the first two days at Caltech

Day 1 – Monday, June 20, 2016 – Caltech Orientation and Talks 

Day 1 features a round-up of talks from the research mentors and leads in the ZTF project. The goal is to give you a sense of the astrophysical and technical context of your projects. Scientific talks will highlight some of the recent research results from the Caltech investigators, and how the your summer project will contribute to the research. From this day you will learn about not only their own projects, but will gain awareness of the larger community of investigators at Caltech and the scientific and technical projects of your fellow students.

Schedule for Day 1

9:00-9:30 Reception and introductions over coffee and pastries
9:30-9:45 Shri Kulkarni – Caltech professor, and Director, Caltech observatories –
9:40-10:00 Eric Bellm – Caltech ZTF Project scientist – talk: Bellm_ZTF-undergrads_160619  website: –
10:10-10:40 Cameron Hummels – postdoc at Caltech – talk: Cameron_Hummels_talk_pomona website:
10:40-11:00 Ragnhild Lunnan – postdoctoral researcher on supernovae – talk:   Ragnhild_Lunnan_ztf_summer_institute  website:
11:00-11:30 break
11:30-11:50 Yi Cao – graduate student at Caltech + expert on supernovae –  “Fast and Furious: Finding Infant Supernovae” talk:  Yi_Cao_ZTF_undergrad_2016  website:
11:50-12:10 David Cook – postdoctoral researcher on star clusters and star formation – Talk – DaveCook_PTFhalpha_CLU2 ;   website –
12:15 lunch – with professors, grad students, and postdocs.

6:00PM Caltech Astronomy Dinner and Talk – Aditya Sood, Producer of “The Martian” (Caltech Astronomy Patio)

7:30-9:30PM – Viewing of The Martian at Caltech Astronomy Hameetman auditorium.

Day 2 – Tuesday, June 21, 2016 – Caltech Lab Tours and Technology 

Day 2 features a set of lab tours and discussions of the technical background within the ZTF projects. It also features additional talks by Caltech and JPL researchers, who are doing cutting-edge instrument development and satellite development in astrophysics.

9:00-9:30  Coffee and pastries
9:30-10:00 Mansi Kasliwal – Caltech professor and PI of the ZTF/PIRE project –
10:00-11:00 Lab tour of Caltech Observatories with Roger Smith
11:00-11:30 break
11:30-11:50 Thomas Kupfer – postdoctoral researcher on ZTF –
11:50-12:20 Jason Rhodes – JPL research scientist – talk: Rhodes_ZTF-SS web site: –
1:00 lunch with JPL and Caltech research scientists, postdocs and grad students at Caltech Atheneum
2:00 PM – Caltech scavenger hunt

Pictures from Days 1 and 2 at Caltech
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