The following blog post was written by Catherine Weigel, an undergraduate at Hartwick College and member of the Undergraduate ALFALFA Team (UAT), during our annual workshop at Arecibo Observatory.
The January 2012 UAT workshop has been a great experience in seeing the progression of science. As the ALFALFA survey is finishing up, we are starting to observe using the L-band wide (LBW) detector. The great part in doing this workshop is that we actually got to spend time observing in which we learned how these follow up observations would work. The really cool part about it is and what is different from the ALFALFA survey’s data collection is that we are able to look at the data we just collected and see how it looks, right away figuring out if there is a source or not. Though a lot of the sources were not detections, there were quite a handful that were. Now the next step is taking those sources and figuring out what they could be and how to verify it.
I find that having gained many experiences through the UAT project and having been a part of the team for a few years that this progression into the follow up study is really quite a fantastic process and a great experience to see. We are really seeing how history is made, how science finds a cause and pursues it and this is an important feature to see. Especially since one of the greatest things about science is finding a project that you see has the potential of gaining knowledge and understanding to the basic nature of the universe. The only way to find the answers is to pursue a way to make the project become a part of the reality of research.
The UAT Workshop has been an exceptional trip. We have learned quite a bit, and it is fantastic that the professors and the observatory share this experience with us. As a student, I feel as though this is a great contribution to my understanding of the scientific process and the scientific community, opening my window of knowledge to the field.