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WVU Physics and Astronomy celebrates inaugural summer research program's success


Over the summer, the WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy hosted eight undergraduate students in research programs with the goal of attaining astrophysics research experience through faculty-led mentoring and hands-on training. 

Six students were chosen to participate in the inaugural Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in Astrophysics.  Two additional students participated in the International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program in which they performed astrophysical research under the mentorship of a local and foreign faculty mentor.

Katie Zine, Blaise Veres, Prof. Maura McLaughlin, Sparrow Roch and Alexandra Higley

All eight students spent 10 weeks on the WVU campus, over which time they attended education and training seminars, research demonstrations, and extracurricular activities like white water rafting, hiking, and exploring Green Bank Observatory.


The REU student-researchers in the first Astrophysics REU were:

Riley Owens, from University of Cincinnati, studied Dynamics and Properties of Cygnus X under Dr. Loren Anderson.

Susannah Paine , from Macalester College, studied Pulsars and Fast Radio Bursts under Dr. Duncan Lorimer.

Kelby Palencia-Torres , from University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, studied Mapping the Circumgalactic Medium under Dr. D.J. Pisano. 

Jordan Stanley , from West Virginia University, studied Fast Radio Bursts, under Dr. Duncan Lorimer. 

Blaise Veres , from Gettysburg College, studied Pulsar Astronomy under Dr. Maura McLaughlin.

Katie Zine, from Indiana University Bloomington, studied Pulsar Astronomy Research under Dr. Maura McLaughlin.


The IRES student-researchers were:

Alexandra Higley, from University of Wyoming, studied Pulsar Astronomy under Drs. Maura McLaughlin (WVU) and Manjari Bagchi (Institute of Mathematical Sciences, India).  

Sparrow Roch, from University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, studied Pulsar Astronomy under Drs. McLaughlin and Bagchi.  

  Student Riley Owen and Mentor Prof. Loren Anderson Student Riley Owens and Prof. Loren Anderson

Capping the programs at the end of July was the WVU Undergraduate Research Symposium. With over 120 presentations, Jordan Stanley, an REU student, and Sparrow Roch, an IRES student, won awards for their research presentations. 

Stanley won best presentation in Physical Sciences and Engineering for “Searching for Fast Radio Bursts in Messier 82” under mentor Dr. Duncan Lorimer.  

Roch won the oral category presentation in the Physical Sciences and Engineering category for  “Gravitational Wave Detection with Pulsars” under mentors Drs. Maura McLaughlin and Manjari Bagchi.  


Multiple research projects were affiliated with NANOGrav, (North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves), a National Science Foundation Physics Frontiers Center. 


Both the REU and IRES programs are supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).