ZTF Summer Undergraduate Astronomy Institute

With Eric Bellm (Caltech Project Scientist for ZTF), I designed program for astrophysics undergraduates working both at Caltech and at Pomona College. The program is funded for five years by the National Science Foundation and is known as the “ZTF Summer Undergraduate Astronomy Institute.” The Institute is intended to help students learn about the science and technology surrounding their summer research projects, and to learn more about ZTF – the Zwicky Transient Factory. ZTF promises to be the premier instrument for discovering supernovae, variable stars and new asteroids, and this Institute will give you a great overview of techniques in time-domain astrophysics, observational astronomy and instrument development.

Photo of M57 – Ring Nebula – taken by Maya Kulkarni at Mt. Wilson 60″ telescope
Eric Bellm giving overview of ZTF at Caltech astronomy auditorium










The first 2015 ZTF Institute was scheduled for four days – during 2015 it was from June 24-27. The program began on Wednesday, June 24 at Caltech with two days of talks, lab tours, and lectures, followed by two days at Pomona College with hands-on observing, and the use of our brand-new planetarium facility. Our program is available at this site: http://ztf.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg/program-2015/ .  Our NSF grant from ZTF paid for all the expenses for our students to have this fantastic experience. We have planned the Institute to give great overview of astrophysics and also have a chance to learn more about what other undergraduates working in astrophysics are doing!

Our ZTF students at the Mt. Wilson 60″ telescope for a night of observing!
Roger Smith explains CCD detectors at the Caltech instrument labs to our students.

Our group for 2015 included group of 7 undergraduates working on SURF projects at Caltech, and 8 students working on SURP programs from Pomona College. Highlights from the program included an opening dinner at the Atheneum, with a talk by Caltech author Sean Carroll (author of the new book “The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World”), a night of visual observing with the Mt. Wilson 60” telescope, tours of Caltech instrument labs, and hands-on observing and data analysis clinics at Pomona College, and a night of observations at the Pomona College Brackett Observatory.

Students observing stars with a spectrograph at the Pomona College observatory
Students taking a hands-on data analysis course at Pomona College





Useful links for ZTF Summer Undergraduate Institute: 

http://ztf.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg/about/ – overview of the program from 2015 site.

http://ztf.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg/photos/photos_caltech/ – photos from Caltech/Mt. Wilson

http://ztf.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg/photos/palomar-observatory-trip/ – photos from Palomar

http://ztf.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg/photos/photos-pomona-college/ – photos from Pomona College

http://ztf.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/sites/71/2015/06/Bellm_PTF-ZTF.pdf – overview of the ZTF project from talk by Eric Bellm at the ZTF institute.





Subsequent ZTF Undergraduate Institutes

During the subsequent years, we continued to offer the Institute at Caltech to a mix of students from across the world, combining the summer undergraduate researchers from Pomona’s SURP program with Caltech’s SURF program and with students from India, China, Singapore, and other countries. The various institutes each have separate pages and you can learn more about the program from these sites:

2016 ZTF Summer Undergraduate Institute

2017 ZTF Summer Undergraduate Institute – bringing in students from Yale-NUS College Singapore, and with a day at Carnegie Observatories.

2018 ZTF Summer Undergraduate Institute – with Eli Quetin (Pomona) and Nadia Blagorodnova (Caltech) with events in concert with the Carnegie Observatories, and featuring 26 students from across the world.

Our NSF grant will continue for 2019, and we look forward to offering our fifth ZTF Undergraduate Summer Institute in June 2019.

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