• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2014 - HG-WELS

The summer visit to Caltech is 3-4 days long and is the only time during the year of work when all the participants on the team come together in person to work intensively on the data. Generally, each educator may bring up to two students to the summer visit that are paid for by NITARP, and they may raise funds to bring two more. The teams work at Caltech; the summer visit typically includes a half-day tour of JPL, which is a favorite site for group photos. Reload to see a different set of quotes.

The HG-WELS team came to visit in July 2014. The core team educators attended, plus 10 students.



  • Most astronomy activities I’ve seen in workshops or online involve analyzing canned data where the results are already known. This might help teach students the process, but real astronomy (or any science) needs to analyze new data or existing data in ways not done before. The process is messy, the data confused or cloudy, the results uncertain, and sometimes you find out nothing you hoped to find. That’s real science. It’s using authentic, raw data to answer questions and draw conclusions. It can be frustrating but it’s also exhilarating. This visit was as I thought it would be – using tools to look at large amounts of data, trying to sort out what it all means, and not always getting what we’d hoped. The conclusion of my students was that they could actually do this sort of work successfully and be real scientists. It de-mystified the process, and I think improved their attitudes toward science research.
  • [student:] One quality you need [to be an astronomer] is you need to know the numbers/stuff. Also, you must be perseverant. There will be lots of dead-ends where you cannot explain something, and you will need a different approach to discover something new.
  • The excitement about the trip has translated into my having an excellent group of students in my fall astronomy class who are excited about applying what we learned this summer. Four of them have expressed interest in the one available spot on the team.
  • [student:] One of the best things about the trip was really getting to look through the data and make the graphs, so that the results of our study were visually apparent. It was like the ‘Aha!’ moment.
  • One of the things that NITARP changed in regards to how I viewed astronomy and astronomers is the use of archived data. Prior to NITARP I always thought of astronomers using data they had collected.

Summer Visit - 2014 - HG-WELS