NSF Awards $200,000 to Support Undergraduate Research in Astronomy

SWARTHMORE, PA, December 29, 2004: The National Science Foundation has recently awarded $200,000 to the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC). The grant, under NSF's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program (REU), will allow a continuation of the consortium's collaborative student-faculty research projects in astronomy for the next two years. The member schools of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium are Colgate, Haverford, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Vassar, Wellesley, Wesleyan, and Williams.

The consortium was created in 1990 in response to a proposal to the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles. The goals of the consortium were, and continue to be: to promote interaction among the astronomers at the eight member colleges, whose astronomy departments have small but strong programs with a history of student research participation; to modernize the equipment at these schools to provide all students the opportunity to learn modern astronomical observing and analysis techniques; to develop lab and teaching projects that can be shared; and to promote research collaborations between students and faculty.

Between 1990 and 2002 the Keck Foundation contributed more than $2.3 million to support collaborative astronomy research among undergraduates and faculty at the eight member colleges. Since 2002, the program has been funded by contributions from the member colleges.

A hallmark of the program is the summer student exchange, which allows students to participate in research carried out by faculty members at other KNAC colleges. With NSF support it will now also be possible to provide some summer research opportunities in astronomy for students enrolled at institutions without astronomy faculty. Each fall the program funds a student research symposium where summer exchange students, along with other students from the member schools who have done astronomy summer research, gather to report on their work to fellow students and faculty. Thus far, more than 160 students and two dozen faculty have participated in the summer exchange, and nearly 300 students have presented their research at the fall symposia.

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