A major barrier preventing many aspiring undergraduate students from entering a career in science is the lack of confidence to reach out for their first research position. Many students fear that they do not have the necessary coding skills or research experience. This is especially true for the underrepresented minority (URM) students. Quoting an undergraduate student I worked with “I had originally planned on reaching out to professors for internships in April but the pandemic delayed … resulted in me procrastinating …I started doubting myself and had lost all focus on my future in academia.” 

To overcome this barrier, I worked with Howard Isaacson to organized an online workshop named “Intro2Astro”. Our target audiences are freshmen and sophomore undergraduate students who are enthusiastic about astronomy but have no prior research experience. We guided them to write their first unix and Python commands, read their first scientific papers, and make their CV and personal websites. Our workshop is free of charge, and we strongly encouraged students with URM backgrounds to participate on Twitter and Whatsapp. In the summer of 2021, we had more than a hundred participants with diverse backgrounds within the US as well as international participants from Bolivia, China, India, Peru, etc. It was gratifying to learn that our workshop propelled many students closer to a career in science by helping them secure their first funded research opportunity.

Quoting one of our workshop participants: “I participated in the Intro2Astro program going into my junior year of college. Before starting the program, I didn't really know what I wanted to get out of my degree...I am an astronomy major but was unsure as to how to get involved in the field or what research was like. Through this program, I was able to really see what astronomy is like outside of the classroom and discover what I truly like about it. I got help and guidance from people who were in similar positions to me in the past and had found their way which was incredibly helpful and eye-opening. Currently, I am participating in an REU program doing more research and plan on applying to grad school to (hopefully!) pursue a career in this field.” 

Email me if you want to join our Workshop as a participant or as a mentor in 2022. You can check out our course materials on Github: https://github.com/howardisaacson/Intro-to-Astro-2021

The Youtube Channel of our “Intro2Astro” Summer Workshop: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_ZmUfnIK2hGheKuikVySWQ