Below is a listing of our students for the 2017 Caltech Summer Undergraduate Astronomy Institute!  Most of you have sent in a short bio; these biographies appear below at the end. Please email me at to update or modify your biography. The advisors/mentors for each student is also listed for each student, along with their email address and home institution.

Name Mentor email Institution
Jackie Lodman Tom Prince Caltech
Bethany Sutter Dave Cook Caltech
Sammy Piascik Jacob/Mansi Caltech
Ben Cassese Shri Kulkarni Caltech
Issac Cui Phil Choi Pomona College
Adam Mitchell* Phil Choi Pomona College
Sunny Rhoades Elijah Quetin Pomona College
Jerry Xuan* Demitri Mawet Pomona College
Sarah Hale LIGO Harvey Mudd College
Rachael Mochama Phil Choi Scripps College
Jerrick Wee Bryan Penprase Yale-NUS College
Joanna Wang Bryan Penprase Yale-NUS College
Nilotpal Chakrobarty Bryan Penprase Yale-NUS College
Yuhan Yao Shri Kulkarni Peking University
Kshiteej Sheth Ashish Mahabal IIT Gandhinagar
*alumnus of the 2016 Institute

Biographies for the 2017 Caltech ZTF Summer Undergraduate Institute students

Ben Cassese

As for my research this summer, I’ll be working on a project we called “Using supernovae to estimate completeness of galaxy catalogs” in my SURF proposal. I’ll be comparing PTF data with the NASA Extragalactic Database to estimate how many supernovae take place in known galaxies, and how many in undocumented ones (limited to 300 Mpc). Using that ratio, I’ll estimate how complete NED currently is, which is of relevance to both PTF/ZTF and LIGO.

As for my background in astronomy/astrophysics, I have practically none. I am a freshman at Caltech who has taken no astronomy classes in high school, although I plan to take the introductory astronomy course here at Tech in the Fall of next school year.

Thanks again, I’m looking forward to this great opportunity!

Bethany SuterI am working with David Cook as my mentor to find ways to optimize the identification of green pea galaxies in the iPTF Halpha survey using various filters that are available. Currently, I have taken an astrophysics class at JHU as well as have done research with LIGO over the past few months. However, this will be my first time doing actual observation.

Sarah Hale

My professor Phil Choi at Pomona recently told me about this program; I’d love to join in!

My SURF is with the LIGO team. I am to be working on using deep learning to find signals in noisy LIGO data. My home institution is Harvey Mudd College, where I am a junior physics major. I have done previous astronomy research during the school year, but this will be my first summer research experience.

Yuhan Yao

My SURF Project

This summer I will be working on spectral and light curve classification of unpublished transients in the PTF survey, under the guidance of Professor Shri Kulkarni. The primary goal of the project is to carefully examine the set of spectra that are currently now slated for. We are motivated to do so with the expectation that such an inquiry may lead to discovery of new subclasses of supernovae. I will classify around 1,000 of transients among the 5,132 Marshal spectra. The key steps are comparing the spectra to a set of supernovae templates followed by spectral line measurements.

Should there be sufficient time left then a secondary goal would be to classify a sample of transients based purely on light curves. At over 30,000 events, I will focus on likely supernovae by requiring that events are coincident with a galaxy. Variable AGN (quasars) will prove to be contaminants and are identified by the central location with respect to the host galaxy. Type Ia and type II supernovae are easily recognized. For the remaining sample I hope to develop supervised machine learning methods for classification.

My Astronomy Background

I’m Yuhan Yao, currently a junior year undergraduate at the Department of Astronomy, Peking University, Beijing, China.

Courses taken/taking by me include: Astronomical spectroscopy; Astronomical techniques and methods (optical, radio, high-energy); Basics of Cosmological Physics; Frontier of Astrophysics; Physics of Stellar Atmosphere; General Relativity; Statistics and Probability.

I’ve been working with Professor Richard de Grijs (KIAA-PKU) on Mira variables using LAMOST spectra for more than one year. On one hand, I investigated a photometrically confirmed sample of Mira spectra (~300 oxygen-rich, ~30 carbon-rich), derived a relationship between the Balmer emission strength and the luminosity phase, developed a python package about spectral line measurement and light curve analysis of Miras. For O-rich Miras, I also found how the ratio of Hdelta/Hgamma goes up as the temperature of stars goes down (M0–>M10), which has not been reported by previous researchers, and may provide observational support for theories of the shock induced atmosphere of this late-type stars.

On the other hand, I selected 179 Mira candidates from ~7,000,000 LAMOST DR4 catalogue based on their spectral characteristics (H, Fe, My emission lines, molecular bands), and discussed the efficiency of a 2MASS-AKARI color-color diagram in separating O-rich and C-rich Miras using C-SVM (support vector machine). As part of this project, I also extracted raw spectra of 17 night taken by optical spectrographs (KOOLS & MALLS) in Japan using IRAF.

I’ve been engaged in other researchers’ observation in Delingha, Qinghai (photometry) and Xinglong, Hebei (spectroscopy), while I have never conducted one by myself.

Jerry Xuan

I am a rising junior at Pomona College, majoring in physics (astro track). This summer, I’ll be working with Prof. Dimitri Mawet on automating the Keck NIRC2 data reduction pipeline for discovering exoplanets, as well as developing a data analysis technique for teasing out planets/disks from background stellar noise (Referential Differential Imaging).

In terms of astro courses, I’ve taken observational astrophysics (A101), intro to astrophysics (A62), high energy astrophysics (A122) and planetary astrophysics (A124). Last summer, I built an instrument that directs planet light into a high-res spectrograph for detailed characterization:

Rachel Mochama

I will be able to attend the ZTF Summer Undergraduate Astronomy Institute. The project I will be working on this summer involves observing near earth asteroids using TMO.I just finished my sophomore year. I have taken Advanced introduction to Astronomy, and the introductory physics sequence. I have no previous research experience but I have had the chance to work with TMO performing exoplanet photometry.

My mentor is Professor Philip Choi at Pomona College and I will be working on this project for six weeks starting in mid-June. I believe the project is a continuation of research done on near earth asteroids last year. The goal is to use the Table Mountain Observatory to observe known asteroids and determine their orbits and also take sky surveys to discover new near earth asteroids. This is all the information I know about the project at the time.

Sunny Rhoades

I would love to attend this summer’s ZTF undergrad astronomy institute! I haven’t had much formal astronomy or astrophysics experience so far, but I’m excited to begin. My limited astronomy experience comes primarily from outside reading and recreational observation. I am also one of several planetarium volunteers at Pomona, so am familiar with Sky-Scan DigitalSky (Dark Matter) software and (beginner) planetarium operation.

My academic background includes two years of calculus, amateur-level Java, and two semesters of college introductory physics. This summer I’ll be working with Professor Elijah Quetin on analyzing the images compiled by the Hubble Space Telescope, using the Hubble Source Catalog CasJobs service from the Hubble Legacy Archive source lists. I am currently learning SQL as well as IDL. I look forward to participating in the ZTF program!

Adam Mitchell

Adam Mitchell is a rising fourth-year physics / astrophysics major at Pomona College.  His interest in astronomy began during high school in an International Baccalaureate physics course that included an option on astrophysics.  Since then, he has taken Harvey Mudd College’s Introduction to Astrophysics, High-Energy Astrophysics, and Planetary Astrophysics as well as Pomona College’s Advanced Introduction to Astronomy and Observational Techniques in Astrophysics.  During the summer of his first year, he received a Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) award to work with Pomona College Professor Phil Choi on KAPAO, Pomona’s adaptive optics system, and on a collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to detect and analyze Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).  During his second summer, he taught astronomy and astrophysics, as well as writing and mathematics, to high-school students at the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS).  Throughout this upcoming summer, he will continue his work with the NEO research group through a full-time internship at NASA’s JPL.  His observing experience with the Pomona College 1-meter telescope at Caltech’s Table Mountain Observatory spans three years and many independent and collaborative projects.  In his spare time, Adam is the chair of the Pomona College Judicial Council, a planetarium developer and operator for the Pomona College Physics & Astronomy Department, a trumpet player in the Pomona College Band, and a referee of association football (soccer).

Samuel (Sammy) Piascik

I would love to participate in the program this summer!  I am currently a freshman at Caltech, and have taken most of the freshman year core requirements, with a couple additional courses in computational physics/astrophysics (the latter with Professor Kulkarni).  This summer will be my first research experience, and I will be working under Professor Mansi Kasliwal to do a detailed study of data on variable stars in NGC 6822.  I will be comparing the near-IR spectra of theses stars with libraries of existing spectra, and using spectroscopy to better classify those stars which don’t fit in previously established categories.

Jiayun (Joanna) Wang

I am Jiayun Wang, a rising Junior at Yale-NUS College. I am majoring in physics with a minor in mathematical and computational sciences. Last semester, I had a wonderful experience in my astronomy class. We used the LCRO telescope of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the NARIT telescope of the Thai National Observatory in Chiang Mai. This summer, I will be in Professor Penprase’ s research group where we study the newly discovered supernova NGC 5643. My research work will be mainly focused on the photometry part, along with some data analysis and model fitting of the light curve.