Diego Garcia ‘20 presents his poster based on work at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at the 2019 KNAC Symposium. Garcia worked on a prototype infrared instrument that may one day find its way to the outer solar system.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Four Middlebury students, along with undergraduates from seven other colleges and universities, presented findings from their research at the 2019 Symposium of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC). Hosted by Vassar College on October 4 and 5, the symposium was attended by more than 120 participants.

Middlebury’s Assistant Professor of Physics Eilat Glikman, Professor Emeritus of Physics Frank Winkler, and telescope and scientific computing specialist Jonathan Kemp attended the symposium alongside Middlebury students.

“The symposium is a stimulating environment for all students of astronomy,” said Kemp. “Some of the students had presented their research before, while for others it was their first opportunity to share their research with fellow students and faculty. The symposium provides inspiration to pursue research opportunities and a venue to meet faculty, make connections, and gain knowledge about subfields and career paths as well as issues of importance to young astronomers.”

The packed schedule of events also included four breakout sessions with KNAC faculty members on topics ranging from applying to graduate school to astronomy and Mauna Kea, and from methods of communicating science to creating video games for pedagogical use in astronomy.

Lauren Fossel (Williams College), Dan Gause ’20, Middlebury Assistant Professor of Physics Eilat Glikman, Lindsey Gordon (Wellesley), and Ché Bradley ’21 at the 2019 KNAC Symposium.

The consortium was founded in 1990 with funds from the W. M. Keck Foundation, and its eight member institutions are Colgate University, Haverford College, Middlebury College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, and Williams College.

Currently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, KNAC promotes student astronomical research and fosters interaction among students, faculty, and staff across the eight campuses.

During the two-day symposium, there were 21 talks given by 24 students and 13 posters presented by 20 students.

Diego Garcia ’20 presented a poster based on his research performed this past summer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center titled “Development and Alignment of the Thermal Infrared Composite Imaging Spectrometer (TIRCIS) Instrument.” Garcia’s NASA-supported research involved development of a prototype infrared instrument for a future space mission. Designed for the study of outer solar system bodies, this instrument would advance our understanding of objects like the volcanically active Io, Jupiter’s third largest moon.

Participants at the symposium arrived on Friday afternoon and attended a reception, banquet, and discussion at Ely Hall in Poughkeepsie. On Saturday, there was a full schedule of events at Sanders Classroom and the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences on Vassar’s campus.

In addition to the students’ posters and presentations, the president-elect of the International Astronomical Union, Professor Debra Elmegreen of Vassar, delivered the welcome address, and Assistant Professor Colette Salyk of Vassar gave opening remarks.

The next KNAC Symposium will be held during the autumn of 2020.