The Undergraduate Research Portal at Tennessee State University - BETA

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The Apprentice Experience

Julia O'connell - Astrophysics Research

Hello. My name is Julia O'Connell and I have had the benefit of several research experiences offered by Tennessee State University (TSU). I highly encourage anyone interested in pursuing a career in science to take full advantage of the dedicated professionals offering apprenticeships. A research environment can provide invaluable "hands on" experience and a depth of understanding that only begins in the classroom. At some point you'll throw off the mantle of "student" and become a collaborator and/or colleague; exposure as an apprentice in a research environment can provide a realistic glimpse into that future. It can also inform your decision while trying to identify your career direction. I can guarantee it will be an experience you won't forget. Plus, it's just pretty cool to be around people with the same interests as you!

As a graduate student now pursuing my PhD in astrophysics, I'm often asked where I did my undergraduate work. This has become one of my favorite conversations. I love telling people that TSU operates 7 dedicated robotic telescopes located at Fairborn Observatory in the Patagonia Mountains of Arizona. I was fortunate enough to travel to the observatory as an undergraduate to help with an upgrade for one of the telescopes, the 2 meter Automatic Spectroscopic Telescope (AST). While we were there, we installed new fiber optic cables that fed the spectrograph, and a new acquisition/guiding head that would guide the telescope while observing the targeted star. We were expected to work, of course, but how many undergraduates get to climb all over a 2 meter telescope, and learn first- hand how the integrated systems work? What a fantastic learning experience, and one that has served me well as a graduate student. With the excellent instruction from the program adviser, Dr. Matthew Muterspaugh, I've been able to take what I learned back into the classroom and succeed on a graduate level.

It's not just the work. It's the skills you'll learn that will help you succeed; it's the conversations you'll have that will answer so many questions; it's the guidance you'll receive through what may seem like an academic maze; it's the contacts you'll make that can help you get to where you want to be. If you are a serious student, and if you're willing to do the work, you'll never have a better opportunity as an undergraduate for creating your own path to success.

Dan Fishler - Astronomy Research

Hi, my name is Dan Fishler and I am a sophomore here at TSU. My major is Electrical Engineering, and I spent the last Summer (2013) working as part of Dr. Muterspaugh research group. I learned a lot about our school and got a taste of some of the cutting edge research we conduct at Tennessee State University.

I wanted to share some of my experiences and adventures I had during the summer of 2013. My journey began with a trip to Arizona, where I assisted Dr. Maxwell to install, wire, and test an electricity system on a brand new structure that was built to provide shelter from the harsh conditions of the desert to a device that we use to measure and track stars. Our telescope is one of the world's most sophisticated robotic telescopes and is constantly gathering data and discovering amazing facts about our universe.

Another project I worked on was coding website. Don't get me wrong, I am not an internet programmer. A lot of will, motivation, and long nights in front of the computer screen helped me get through it. I learned how to program in PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) and to my relief the website is ready to launch just in time for Fall 2014.

The TSU Undergraduate Portal is a great source to find out about research opportunities in our school. I hope everybody get a good use out of the website. Give it a shot, regardless of your major, apply for opportunities that sound apealing and get hands on experience. My experience really opened up a new academic direction and I am so greatful for the opportunity I had.

Go Tigers!

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