Physicists Mentor the Next Generation of Lunar Scientists

Arts & Sciences News

May 13, 2010
Baylor University's Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER) and the NASA Lunar Science Institute's (NLSI) Center for Lunar Science and Exploration recently conducted a pilot research project with a student team from high schools around the Waco area to help scientists in their quest to understand the Moon and prepare for future human exploration.

The program, which included student teams from other high schools from across the country, was developed to provide research experiences that inspire lunar and planetary career paths for students interested in science. It also offers a special opportunity for students to interact directly with lunar scientists.

"One of CASPER's primary goals is to encourage students to consider science, technology, engineering or math careers, and this was a wonderful, fun way of doing that," said Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research at Baylor, professor of physics and CASPER director. "These students benefited greatly from conducting research with CASPER scientists."

The research project consisted of gathering published literature to identify specific sites on the Moon's surface that could provide a better understanding into the distribution of ages seen between the oldest and youngest mare basalts, which cover about 17 percent of the lunar surface and are visible from Earth as dark areas on the Moon.

The student teams recently concluded their semester-long research projects and will present their findings to a panel of lunar scientists. All four projects will be showcased at the NASA Lunar Science Forum at the NASA Ames Research Center in July 2010. The highest-ranking team and their teacher will present their work at the conference.

The student team included Ricardo Delgado, A.J. Moore Academy; Suzi Romero, A.J. Moore Academy; Lauren Hernandez, Waco High; Santiago Vallejo, University High; and Kraig Orcutt, Academy High.

Teachers and mentors who assisted with the research project included Sharon Orcutt, Sam Bartlett and Stephanie Bailey, Waco ISD; Dr. Cynthia Hernandez and Dr. Rene Laufer, CASPER, Baylor; and Dr. Rhiannon Mayne, Texas Christian University.
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