Promoting Inclusion and STEMming Attrition in Astrophysics
Check out our extended video introduction here!
Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Fields have an equal access problem. Under-represented minorities -- in particular Black Americans, Latinx Americans and Native Americans -- are woefully under-represented in professional science fields. As astronomers and astrophysicists, we know the best science gets done when we maximize the number of talented minds we can put together for a problem, and we think everyone with a passion for science deserves the right to solve the mysteries of the Universe. This is the reason the UT Austin Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory has launched the TAURUS Scholars program, or the Texas Astronomy Undergraduate Research experience for Under-represented Students.
The TAURUS Program
The TAURUS program is a full-time, 9-week summer research experience in astronomy for highly-motivated undergraduate students from underserved and traditionally marginalized groups. TAURUS Scholars come from all over the country to UT Austin to work one-on-one with professional astronomers on an individual and unique research project. By giving them a hands-on professional scientific research experience, our program prepares TAURUS Scholars to enter graduate school in top-rated astronomy and physics programs or to enter the STEM workforce after graduation.
It is important that TAURUS Scholars establish a home in our community in the UT Austin Astronomy Department and McDonald Observatory. Many of our students will not have had an opportunity to pursue research at their home colleges and universities, despite their excellent academic records, because research experiences in astronomy and astrophysics are rare overall, possibly non-existant at their college. We are committed to addressing structural and cultural marginalization (people of color, LGBTQIA, those with disabilities, women, intersectional groups) within academic research through discussion and building a strong sense of community via mutual respect as scientists, learners, and individuals. We are dedicated to helping TAURUS Scholars achieve their dreams in STEM related careers.
Students' research projects range from planets around other stars and stellar evolution, to galaxy formation and evolution. Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers host bi-weekly seminars throughout the summer for TAURUS scholars to discuss topics related to astronomy careers, computer programming, research, scientific writing, and much more. TAURUS Scholars also take a trip to McDonald Observatory, a cutting-edge astronomical facility in West Texas, during the summer. For many of our students, this is their first trip to a professional observatory and their first time operating a professional telescope.
At the conclusion of the nine week research program, TAURUS Scholars present their work to the entire astronomy department at the annual TAURUS Symposium. With the approval of their research supervisor, scholars are then invited to participate in the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) the following January to present their work, meet other research students from other programs, and network with potential graduate programs and employers.
Why are we fundraising?
We rely on donors to keep our program going. While we do seek funding through national funding agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), not all costs related to the TAURUS program experience can be covered by those research-focused grants. TAURUS Scholars come to UT Austin from all over the country, and we pay for their travel expenses, their room and board on campus at UT for the nine weeks, and the expenses of taking them to McDonald Observatory and the meeting of the American Astronomical Society. In addition, their research supervisors in the department ensure they are paid a competitive stipend. Please explore our levels of support for more information on how you can make a difference to the TAURUS program!
If we reach our goal of $14610, we'll be able to cover all of the living and travel expenses for three of our five TAURUS Scholars in 2017!
Please visit our website at www.as.utexas.edu/taurus to learn more!