Research Profiles

The following are a collection of responses from faculty about their own research groups. We hope that by reading them you can get a better idea of what it’s like to be a part of their group.

Responses were collected for the Research Fair in 2021. We’ll do our best to get more responses from faculty as time goes on.

David Williams

Position or Job Title

What does a successful research experience look like for your group?

Most students work on a data analysis project, starting the summer before their senior year, or before. This project becomes the topic of their senior thesis. In some cases, the results are included in or used for a journal article on which they are included as authors.

What happens if a student no longer feels the research opportunity is a right fit for them?

“Research is hard work, and as an undergraduate student, you are making time for it in addition to your other responsibilities and goals. This only works well if you are excited about what you are doing. If the project is not the right fit, it is better to acknowledge that and move on to another project in the same group or to a different group.”

What is something you feel is essential to know before joining your lab group specifically?

Every project in my group involves computers in some way. The more familiarity that you already have with computing, especially in the linux command line environment, the better. However, many students are successful learning this as they go.

Are there any prerequisites in the form of course work that can delay a student from joining your lab?

Typically, no. Astr 119, Introduction to Scientific Computing, is one of the most helpful courses to have had.”

Do you offer summer opportunities? Is financial compensation an option for your research lab?

Yes, there are summer opportunities in the form of Research Experience for Undergraduates internships, paid hourly research assistant positions, and volunteer research internships. Yes, it is. Research Experience for Undergraduates internships offer a stipend and research assistant positions are paid by the hour.

What expectations exist for students involved in your research group?

Students are expected to be reliable and responsible. Reliable means that they attend meetings as expected and provide notice if they need to miss or change a meeting. It means that they invest the amount of effort that has been discussed and agreed to at the start of the project. Responsible means that they respect the proprietary (private) nature of some of the data they may be using and that they are honest about the results they do or don’t obtain, even if those results are “disappointing” in some way.

What type of work would be involved while working with your group?

See the answers to 1 and 3 above. Data analysis projects generally start with running existing software on a practice data set. They may develop to running that same software on other data sets or developing the software to accomplish more complicated tasks. In some cases, the student needs to select the data set, in the sense of checking the data to see which are good to use prior to running the next steps.

Are there any further readings that may be helpful to learn more about the work you do?

Typically, there are, but they vary according to the project. You might find it interesting to browse the VERITAS (https://veritas.sao.arizona.edu) and CTA (https://www.cta-observatory.org) web sites.

What is the best form of communication for follow-up questions or inquiries?

“E-mail to daw@ucsc.edu. We can arrange a time to meet and discuss things in more detail.”

Steve Ritz

Position or Job Title

What does a successful research experience look like for your group?

“Varies. Answering a complex question or solving a problem, or at least gaining new insight into a problem, and learning to explore and spot errors, along with a a much deeper understanding of research methods, and presenting results are common outcomes.

What happens if a student no longer feels the research opportunity is a right fit for them?

“I’d want to listen to the student to understand their interests and concerns, and then suggest alternatives.”

What is something you feel is essential to know before joining your lab group specifically?

A working knowledge of Python

Are there any prerequisites in the form of coursework that can delay a student from joining your lab?

“Not specifically, but the student does need to have time available to do research.”

Summer opportunities and financial compensation?

Sometimes. It requires a match in the student’s interests and available funding.

What expectations exist for students involved in your research group?

Being part of a positive, welcoming climate in which everyone can grow. See the Department’s Code of Conduct.
Being at least as interested as I am in their own research problem, and making a sustained, dedicated effort toward progress.”

What type of work would be involved while working with your group?

At this stage, coding will be a big part of the work, in addition to reading and discussing papers.

Are there any further readings that may be helpful to learn more about the work you do?

Yes. Please see my website URL at the bottom of the first slide. There, you can find papers and slides with much more information.

What is the best form of communication for follow-up questions or inquiries?

Email with a clear subject line. If I don’t respond, it’s because I didn’t see your message, so please re- send (sorry to have to ask, but I do miss email sometimes).”

Tesla Jeltema

Position or Job Title

What does a successful research experience look like for your group?

“It can look like a lot of things, but I would say original contributions be they big or small to research in our group leading to a senior thesis. Projects can be conducted in collaboration with other students or be independent.

What happens if a student no longer feels the research opportunity is a right fit for them?

“I try to match students with projects based on interest and skills, and I am always open to discussing students changing projects. If a student wants to leave the group to work with another group, that is absolutely fine and there will be no hard feelings. Undergrad is a great time to try things out.


3. + 4. What is something you feel is essential to know before joining your lab group specifically? Are there any prerequisites in the form of coursework that can delay a student from joining your lab?

I have no prerequisites for joining the group. Research is about learning, and there are always ways to contribute. It is helpful if students have had at least a little programming.”

5. + 6. Do you offer summer opportunities? Is financial compensation an option for your research lab?

I am happy to work with students over the summer. I sometimes can fund undergrad students, but it depends. Typically, this would be for advanced students who have been in the group a while to allow them to finish a project or paper.

What expectations exist for students involved in your research group?

Not really an expectation, but open communication is very helpful.

What type of work would be involved while working with your group?

“This depends on the project, but typically the work would be some form of data analysis, fitting data (i.e. mostly on a computer).”

Are there any further readings that may be helpful to learn more about the work you do?

This depends on the specific project. I would be happy to discuss with interested students.

What is the best form of communication for follow-up questions or inquiries?

Email. For longer questions, email to set up a meeting. For group members, we have a slack channel.

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