The following post is from Catherine Weigel, an undergraduate student at Hartwick College and a member of the Undergraduate ALFALFA Team.
From January 16-20 I was one of seventeen undergraduates, 13 faculty, and 2 graduate students to have partaken in the 2011 undergraduate workshop at Arecibo Observatory. The workshop was an invigorating and fulfilling experience that allotted both time to make connections and to acquire knowledge. Each day students and faculty were connected through discussion over the scavenger hunts, waking up in the earlier hours of the morning to do some observing, or enjoying the culture of the cinema, with The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) as one of the more popular choices. Besides these events, students could be seen gazing over a star chart while professors would point out the more prominent stars and constellations.
Throughout the workshop, we were an audience to many great talks. These talks varied in subject, some pertaining to the UAT Groups project, while others gave students an idea of additional projects that used the largest radio telescope. Along with these sessions where students and faculty were together, there were also times when faculty and students would be separated into beginner sessions and advanced sessions. Faculty would go off and discuss the progress of the project and other projects that could happen after this one has ended. Having done a bit on the project, me and another student were invited to a couple of these advanced sessions. Upon attending these sessions, I found that it is important to look at what is going on now and to make sure that there is a purpose to any project that you find yourself a part of, because without a purpose the project would just be a waste of time and money. During the sessions, me and my Hartwick counterparts (Jaclyn Patterson and Dr. Parker Troischt) would take notes and upon returning to campus, are using these notes as building blocks of what the project is and what we can do in analyzing our group. These will be useful to all of us and potentially any newcomers to the project. Between the three of us, we have over 30 pages in notes in which we can build upon.
One of the bigger things that was taken away from this workshop was learning how to do remote observing. This summer, the Hartwick team was one of three that had a chance to get to do some on-site observing and we got a refresher during this workshop. Remote observing follows the main procedures of on-site observing with some variances (such as communication with the operator) as we will be located 34 degrees north latitude of the Observatory. Being able to do on-site observing has given us the confidence and ability to remove ourselves from the site and having had that first observing run within the environment of the telescope has given us the experience and belief that we will be able to do a remote run very successfully.