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Exploring Pulsar Research beyond the PSC Student Experience


Often the mentee becomes the mentor while continuing research through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC). William Jarvis, currently a sophomore undergraduate student at University of Wisconsin-Madison, speaks on his experience through his various roles in the PSC.

As a senior high school student, William became involved with the PSC in 2019. He was the only student from his school to attend the summer camp at Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County, WV. He quickly learned how much he loved the research experience and opportunities afforded to him during the camp that he wanted to continue to be involved.

Once a freshman at Oberlin College, he worked closely with Dr. Natalia Lewandowska, who served as his mentor during the camp, to further his research project work. His research focused on calculating the age of the Crab Pulsar. William credited his positive research experience with Natalia’s guidance, stating “The project had been fun and necessitated quite a bit of work on my part to do some of the more complicated maths that the younger students I was working with simply hadn’t learned yet. Natalia was wonderful in getting us the resources we needed to have a successful project.”

Now that he had solidified his research background, he continues his research through his undergraduate career in order to broaden his research efforts. He wanted to investigate whether there was any correlation between giant pulses (strong pulses with a high deviation from the median) and glitch events in the Crab. Every once-in-a-while, the Crab will very briefly spin-up, where it temporarily appears to spin faster than normally before eventually continuing its slow-down. The big question he has for his research is: if a glitch is related to starquakes which are be caused by the buildup of stress inside the pulsar, could the giant pulses be playing a role in that build-up of stress?

He has been working across the board with PSC mentors, staff and researchers to jump start his research project, including a focused session in Morgantown, WV where he worked with Dr. Lewandowska to further develop his LINUX skills critical to his research.William states that without the special session of programming with Natalia and other researchers, he would not be able to do the research he doing today.

Alongside his research, William currently serves as an undergraduate PSC mentor. He works closely with PSC students on a number of efforts with some of the other mentors to expand research opportunities for students and to make the PSC experience a wider, more interesting, and more transformative opportunity for the students.

About the PSC

The Pulsar Search Collaboratory is a program that allows high school students and teachers to analyze pulsar data from the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). The Pulsar Search Collaboratory, a partnership between West Virginia University and the Green Bank Observatory, is funded by the National Science Foundation. For more information, please visit: