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Amgen Scholars: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty for the Amgen Scholars program.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor. For additional tips on identifying a mentor click here.

Please remember:

  • Students pursuing Amgen must be U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or students with DACA status.
  • Students pursuing Amgen must complete the 10-week program from June 18 - August 23, 2024. Students must commit to these dates. No exceptions will be made.
  • Accepted students must live in provided Caltech housing.

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Project:  Characterizing the Radio Pulsar Distance Distribution using HI Kinematics
Disciplines:  Astronomy, Astrophysics
Mentor:  Stella Ocker, Carnegie-Caltech Brinson Prize Postdoctoral Fellow, (PMA),, Phone: 4154194808
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  Radio pulsars with known distances are critical probes of the Milky Way’s ionized interstellar medium. However, of the roughly 3000 pulsars observed to date, only about 300 have distance measurements. The most precise of these distances are obtained through measurements of annual parallax, a laborious task that requires either very long baseline interferometry or years of dedicated pulsar timing. Alternatively, HI absorption features in pulsar spectra can be used to derive kinematic distances, by comparing the radial velocity of the HI cloud to a model for the Galactic rotation curve. While HI kinematic distances have substantial uncertainties, they are a necessary and significant constituent of the limited pulsar distance sample. The last comprehensive catalog of HI kinematic distances for pulsars was compiled by Frail and Weisberg (1990), based on the Galactic rotation curve model from Fich et al. (1989). Since then, constraints on the Galactic rotation curve have improved substantially, and the HI kinematic distances of pulsars need to be re-derived using the latest model for Galactic rotation.
Description:  This project aims to derive new HI kinematic distances for pulsars, based on radial velocity measurements compiled by Frail & Weisberg (1990) and the latest Galactic rotation curve model from Reid et al. (2019). The main task of this project is to produce Python code that can estimate HI kinematic distances, with the goal of testing the code on 1 to 10 pulsars. Depending on the student’s interests, they will have the option to explore different methods for estimating kinematic distances and statistical uncertainties. The student will also have the option to fold in datasets from other astronomical surveys that are relevant to characterizing pulsar lines-of-sight.

The project mentor is a member of the NANOGrav Collaboration, a large (>40 institution) collaboration of astronomers devoted to studying gravitational waves using pulsar timing. In addition to participating in the CASSI summer program (see below), the student will have the option to join virtual meetings of the NANOGrav collaboration.

This SURF research project will be hosted at Carnegie Observatories, which is located roughly a mile north of Caltech campus. Carnegie hosts undergraduate research summer students from a variety of colleges and universities across Southern California. In addition to research, Carnegie summer interns (including those from the SURF program) participate in a wide variety of professional development activities, including a coding bootcamp at the beginning of the summer, scientific communication workshops throughout the program, and seminars on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in science. Upon successful completion of the program, all students will also be given the opportunity to attend the American Astronomical Society meeting and present their research the following January. For information about the Carnegie Summer program please visit our website:
References:  Frail & Weisberg (1990):
Reid et al. (2019): author:"^Reid" year:2019&sort=date desc, bibcode desc&p_=0
Student Requirements:  Programming: Python. Position available to Caltech students only. Research will be conducted at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena as part of the Carnegie Astrophysics Summer Student Internship (CASSI) program which runs from June 17th - Aug 23rd. Students must be present for the full duration of the program. 
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    Caltech students only 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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