JINA-CEE Continues Partnership with Minority Serving Institutions

Kayleigh Johnson (left), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Eboni Collins (right), Dillard University

Kayleigh Johnson (left), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Eboni Collins (right), Dillard University

As part of a collaboration initiated at the end of 2019, JINA-CEE is introducing students from seven Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) to the field  of nuclear astrophysics. An introductory lecture series was launched online in the fall 2020 semester. Participating institutions are Alabama A&M University, Arkansas University At Pine Bluff, Dillard University, Howard University, Texas Southern University, University Of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Virginia Union University. The JINA lecture series highlighted cutting edge science in nuclear astrophysics, and provided information about graduate studies and REU opportunities at JINA-CEE participating institutions, and other career relevant information. 

The lectures were embedded into the curriculum at the various institutions. 37 students attended the live lecture series via zoom, and many more watched the recorded videos on our YouTube channel. Participants expressed an increased interest in astronomy and nuclear physics after the lectures, and many found the information provided about grad schools useful. A website dedicated to the JINA-CEE lecture series for MSIs was created, which includes a short profile of each one of the instructors, and a variety of links to additional resources.

The program also includes internship opportunities at JINA-CEE institutions for selected students, following the lecture series. During Spring 2021, the first such internships were offered to undergraduate students enrolled at the participating institutions. Two students are currently working remotely with JINA-CEE faculty on nuclear astrophysics research:

Eboni Collins, from Dillard University, joined Remco Zegers' research group, where she contributes to the data analysis of charge exchange reaction experiments taken with the Low Energy Neutron Detector Array (LENDA). Eboni has been interested in physics since her senior year in high school, and has done summer research internships in the past at Fermilab, Tulane University and the U.S. Army. She will be starting her masters in engineering management  at the University of New Orleans this fall. When asked about her impressions of her JINA internship she shared that:

"My research group has been extremely helpful and supportive. I really love working with Dr Zegers. His grad student Jaclyn Schmitt, whom I work with closely, has been a great peer mentor. This experience changed my view of remote internships."

Kayleigh Johnson, from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is working with Ed Brown on research related to white dwarf stars accreting matter form a binary companion. Kayleigh has been involved in research experiences for undergrads for the last three summers at Princeton University, University of Arkansas, and Washington State University. She knew she wanted to go to graduate school, but thanks to her recent experience with JINA, she decided to apply to the nuclear graduate program at MSU. She was accepted and has recently relocated to East Lansing. She shared that:

"I did my research presentation at the end of my seminar class last fall based on the lecture by Dr Jinmi Yoon on galactic archaeology, and my whole class loved it. When I learned about the research internship I was very excited and applied immediately. Working with Dr Brown and his group has been an amazing experience, and it has given me the little push to know this is where I want to go."

The second JINA-CEE lecture series in nuclear astrophysics for MSIs is planned for the upcoming fall semester, and more follow-up activities like summer schools are in the works for 2022.