Joel Earwicker: Experiences with BRIEF/Boyce-Astro created many opportunities.

I started with BRIEF 2 years ago with the DoubleSTARS research seminar. I knew I would be applying to transfer to a 4-year university and wanted to have research experience before applying to strengthen my application and better prepare myself for future research projects. The research I conducted with the guidance of BRIEF was presented at the winter 2020 American Astronomical Society meeting, which was my first experience presenting at a conference. The following summer I enrolled in the Intro to Photometry and Exoplanets course, where I was exposed to the techniques used in observing transiting exoplanets and the associated data reduction. At the end of this course, I was introduced to the Exoplanet Watch project at JPL, and was lucky enough to be able to participate. These experiences peaked my interest, and BRIEF funded my participation in the Exoplanet Observing course hosted by the AAVSO, in which I gained more detailed knowledge surrounding the science of exoplanet detection and characterization.

Now in 2021 I’m working on my bachelor’s degree and doing research:

With the help of the research experience provided by BRIEF, I was admitted in to all of my top choice universities and research programs. I have since transferred to UC Santa Cruz where I am earning my degree in astrophysics, and am involved in research as part of the LAMAT program at UCSC where I work on new approaches to computationally modeling the interior structure of the gas giant planets. In addition, I have continued working with BRIEF on novel exoplanet research which we hope to get published in the near future. I am currently working on my certification for the TESS follow-up observation program


Skylar Larsen: Let me tell you about my experience with BRIEF / Boyce-Astro.

My astronomy journey began with Boyce-Astro; I feel so fortunate to have studied under their expert guidance and support. Through the program, I published two papers in the Journal of Double Star Observations and the Society of Astronomical Sciences by the time I graduated high school. Additionally, I was lucky enough to mentor other students of Boyce-Astro, who went on to publish their own papers.

Overall, the program fostered my interest in observational astronomy by providing hands-on research experience, and introduced me to the wider scientific process by accurately simulating scientific writing, publishing, and peer-review procedures. I cannot recommend this program enough— I consider my involvement in Boyce-Astro the beginning of my career!

Here is what I have been doing since high school and where I plan to go.

Since my launch with Boyce-Astro, I am currently an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science. As an MIT Student, I teach office hours for Calculus courses, and participate in multiple Undergraduate Research Opportunities within my department. This past summer, I completed an internship at NASA’s Lunar and Planetary Institute regarding the surface composition of near-Earth asteroids. I plan to present my findings at multiple upcoming conferences, including the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC).

I am an ambassador for the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), which involves planning and participating in various outreach programs for the organization. After earning my bachelors in 2023, I plan to attend graduate school and study for a PhD in Planetary Science or Astrobiology. I consider my ongoing relationship with Boyce-Astro to be one of my most honored privileges to date.

katherine testimonial

Katherine Olsen: With BRIEF / Boyce-Astro I gained research and project experience.

My experience with Boyce-Astro has primarily been as a student, researching a binary star system and writing a scientific paper on conclusions drawn with my team, and learning about the peer review process of publication through this first-hand experience. I have also revised BRIEF curriculums for efficiency and presentation while transitioning them to an online learning management system. I also worked on increasing accessibility to BRIEF’s remote BARO observatory through mathematical calibrations, creating an exposure-time calculator, and creating a website for students to book time and operate the BARO telescope and cameras online.

Here is what I’m doing now:

I am now an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. I hope to continue researching astronomical phenomena, but now with an added understanding of the physics behind their behaviors.

Faisal Testimonial

Faisal Al-Zaben: BRIEF / Boyce-Astro introduced me to a career in science.

Before discovering my current field of biology, I was fascinated with outer space. Through BRIEF, I published and presented three astronomy papers on double star systems, in which my team imaged, measured, and predicted the movements of stars using robotic telescopes.  Astronomy taught me about the scientific method’s rigors and complexities: hypothesis testing, experimental design, and communication, all grounded in mathematics, statistics, and a healthy fascination with the unknown. But, the most gratifying aspect of this research was sharing my findings with the community, especially students who were just commencing their STEM journeys. My later interest in evolutionary biology was a logical extension of my astronomy pursuits. After all, both disciplines are fundamentally concerned with the genesis of life, albeit observed through differently apertured lenses.
Since my early experience in astronomy, I have been building my career in genetics.

My experience with BRIEF allowed me to realize early on that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. When I graduated from the Army and Navy Academy, I went to UC Berkeley to study genetics. I fell in love with evolution and joined a lab (the Brem lab) studying complex trait differences between species. Eventually, I led my project, which revealed a new view on the evolution of complex traits. I wrote an honors thesis and was awarded the Spencer W. Brown award in genetics, given to the UC Berkeley seniors who have most distinguished themselves in genetics research. As in BRIEF, I had many opportunities to present my work and discuss science. After a year working in the Brem lab as a lab manager post-graduation, I applied to Ph.D. programs across the country. Eventually, I chose Harvard to pursue my graduate studies in evolutionary genetics. My goal is to further the field of evolutionary genetics by getting at the yet unknown rules of evolution. 

If lenses are a metaphor for my obsession with science, I have had an unparalleled opportunity to zoom both in and out – on distant galaxies and infinitesimal genetic markers and everything in between. I hope that I can lead my own lab and educate the next generation of scientists through training, as my mentors at ANA and Boyce-Astro did for me one day.

lucy conover
Lucy Conover: Boyce Astro truly shaped how I operate as a scientist:
The process of research, peer review, and publication became invaluable to me. In all of my college classes, whether humanities, STEM, or studio art class, I use skills I’ve learned from the BRIEF DoubleSTARS Program. Of everything I experienced in my courses at BRIEF, the most impactful step was the peer review and submission process. The DoubleSTARS program allowed me to have a greater understanding of the scientific method, and how knowledge is produced in our society. I apply that understanding on a daily basis as a Science, Technology and Society major. Working on the Exo-plorer program and teaching an online class gave me first hand teaching experience, which I used in 2020 to create and teach an online science curriculum for middle schoolers.
Our paper, in particular, hypothesized that a double star system likely didn’t exist due to an error by an observer in 1861. The historical element of that paper was what drew me to the topic, and after the paper was published, I realized the importance of including history in scientific research. Since exploring history of science classes and writing several research papers on the history of astronomy in college, I knew I would include a historical element in my educational experience. I decided to major in Science, Technology and Society with an emphasis on history and math, and I attribute that in many ways to our paper from BRIEF.
Since Boyce Astro I have been…
Studying as a junior at Pitzer College (one of the “5Cs” alongside Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Claremont McKenna and Scripps) in Claremont, CA. I am majoring in Science, Technology and Society (STS) with a concentration in mathematics and history with a minor in mathematics. I am planning to study abroad in Japan in 2022 and complete my STS Thesis in 2023. I am also the STS major liaison for Pitzer College. Some topics I am interested in researching are pseudoscience and misinformation, voting theory, and progressive education.
lucy conover
Vladimir Bautista: Boyce-Astro gave me a wealth of possibilities
I joined Boyce-Astro’s DoubleSTARS™ seminar while I was finishing my major requirements for SDSU’s Astronomy program. I had no prior research experience. I joined the program because I found the topic of research interesting. We picked a double star system and determined whether the system was physically bound or a false double star. We collected our data using Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) remote telescopes. We wrote a paper about our results, presented it to our peers, and got it published towards the end. Little did I know that this was going to be my first step into lots of possibilities.

I took an exoplanet course with the AAVSO under Boyce-Astro. I finished the course and got my certification. I used what I learned in that course into doing a Circumbinary Planet (CBP) project in 2020 where we supplied data for SDSU astronomy department. I learned how to make light curves, request observations on LCO, and do AIJ analysis. During that project, I also became one of BRIEF’s telescope operators. I was trained to use BRIEF’s telescope, BARO, for our CBP project. I also got to use BARO for my other research projects at SDSU. I worked on a Cataclysmic Variable (CV) project with one of my astronomy professors in my junior year and I used BARO, as well as LCO, to get my data. In that project, we determined a change in the period of a CV system. We sent our paper to RNAAS and got it published in September 2021.

Here’s where I am now:
With my research experiences with BRIEF, I was able to get back-to-back scholarships at SDSU for the year 2020 & 2021. I was recently hired as a research assistant at SDSU’s Physics Department where I’m working on “Sensitivity Analysis of Shell Model interactions (SASM)” in nuclear physics. For my senior project at SDSU, I’m doing a Circumbinary Planet UnHabitable Zone project where I am modeling different types of circumbinary (CB) systems with parameters that create unhabitable zones around these CB systems. I’m also mentoring a bright, up-and-coming high school student, Shreya Goel, in our Circumbinary Planet project for the year 2021.

I’m a senior undergraduate studying astronomy at San Diego State University (SDSU). I’m planning to get my Master’s after I graduate. With my experiences with Boyce-Astro, I was able to get into astronomy research at SDSU, ranging from double stars to exoplanets, circumbinary planets, cataclysmic variables, and nuclear physics. Participating in
Boyce-Astro programs might be the smartest decision I made in my undergraduate student career which opened a lot of doors for me. I encourage others to do the same and take that first step, especially if you are a STEM student. There are a lot of outreach programs like Boyce-Astro out there waiting for you.