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UTB Alumna Returns to Lead Summer Astronomy Ambassadors Program

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JULY 29, 2014 – Rossina B. Miller of Brownsville attended her first Summer Astronomy Ambassadors Program at The University of Texas at Brownsville in 2005 when she was a rising junior at the Science Academy of South Texas in Mercedes. She was a program counselor for five summers as a high school and university student.

This summer Miller directed the program for the first time. The work involved contacting professors, scheduling and developing lectures and planning hands-on learning activities for the 16 area high school students and four UTB undergraduate physics students.

“I would not be where I was without the Astronomy Ambassadors Program,” said Miller. “It’s great to see them get excited about science, especially radio astronomy.”

UTB alumnus Rossina Miller holds up a Raspberry Pi, a miniature computer, during the 10th Annual Astronomy Ambassadors program on Thursday, Jul. 10, 2014 at the Arecibo Remote Command Center in SETB.

This week – the last of the three-week program – attendees will work with small computers to analyze sound and data and learn basic coding.

“It is a small scale of what we do at the radio telescopes,” said Miller.

Miller and her father, former Brownsville Porter High School physics and astronomy teacher and former chief instructor for the Astronomy Ambassadors Program Andy Miller, have always looked at the sky.

“Our whole family has enjoyed observing what we can see and letting our imaginations run free thinking about what may be out there that we can’t see,” said Andy Miller. “When Rossina started working with her research on pulsars, she was working with data based on radio waves which are invisible to the human eye. It was a perfect fit.”

Miller graduated in 2007 from the Science Academy of South Texas.

She graduated in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in physics from UTB. Miller was one of the first Arecibo Remote Command Center Scholars during her time at the university. For the first two years, all ARCC Scholars must participate in radio pulsar surveys in the Arecibo Remote Command Center that involves going through massive amounts of data from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Radio Telescope in Green Bank, W.V. In their third year, students must work on their own research projects supervised by a department faculty professor. By their fourth year, they continue as team leaders and must submit a thesis of their research work to the department.

“Rossina has been an integral part of building the ARCC Program into what it has become and I am happy that she has been able to go off to a university in another state and work with top scientists in the field,” said Andy Miller, who will teach physics and astronomy at Saint Joseph Academy starting this fall in Brownsville. “Having her back here this summer has completed a circle for her as she is now able to give back to younger students the benefit of her knowledge and experiences.”

UTB alumnus Rossina Miller leads area high school students in the 10th Annual Astronomy Ambassadors program on Thursday, Jul. 10, 2014 at the Arecibo Remote Command Center in SETB.

Miller began her doctoral studies in physics in fall 2012 at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va.

“The seasons are nice and there is a diverse ethnic community in Morgantown,” said Miller. “The Department of Physics and Astronomy at WVU is nice and there is a lot of support for the graduate students.”

As a UTB undergraduate and WVU graduate student, Miller has worked as a counselor for the Pulsar Search Collaboratory at the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope. It was there that she met Dr. Maura McLaughlin, an Associate Professor in WVU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

She is working with McLaughlin to analyze data for Rotating Radio Transient pulsars. The data comes from the Long Wavelength Array west of Socorro, N.M. and the Parkes Observatory near Parkes, New South Wales, Australia.

“I have a lot of experience analyzing Parkes data myself, but none with the Long Wavelength Array, and Rossina therefore learned all of the intricacies of data taking and data reduction herself,” said McLaughlin. “Here work with the LWA data represents one of the first science results to come out of this new instrument and will result in a first-author paper for Rossina soon.”

UTB’s Alumni Association invites all alumni to celebrate graduates’ achievements and to bid farewell to Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, President of UTB, at Celebracion at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28 in the Courtyard at Main. Garcia will step down on Sunday, Aug. 31 to head the newly created University of Texas System Institute of the Americas to be based in the Rio Grande Valley. Suggested minimum donation for scholarships is $10 per person. For more information contact the Office of University Relations at 956-882-4326.

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