Freeport Standout’s Scientific Summer

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High school freshman Valeria Ventura spent her summer vacation in a most unique way, honing her advanced scientific knowledge by participating in the prestigious Physicists Inspiring the Next Generation 2016: Exploring the Cosmos with the National Radio Telescope Observatory summer program. Ventura was just one of 20 students nationwide — and the only one from New York — to be accepted to the program in West Virginia.
    
Ventura spent nearly two weeks learning various scientific concepts and participating in several experiments and workshops, including conducting research to observe the “invisible” universe using a 40-foot radio telescope — the largest in the world — and, under the supervision of NRAO staff, participating in supplementary educational activities, including building electronic circuits and writing computer code.
    
In addition, Ventura will be participating in the Pulsar Search Colaboratory project, the principal investigators of which are West Virginia University and NRAO. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation, involves searching for undiscovered pulsars. Beginning in the first week of October, Ventura will be enrolled in an online class on pulsars, and will be assigned a professor from West Virginia University as her mentor. The class will have weekly assignments and homework, and will run for six weeks. Upon completion of the course, Ventura will begin analyzing data by the Green Bank radio telescope. Depending on her performance in the course and the data analysis, Ventura has the opportunity to attend the American Astronomers Association meeting in Dallas, Texas early next year, with the costs of attending provided by NRAO.
    
Ventura’s ongoing scientific enrichment serves not only as a testament to her knowledge of the field, but also to the stellar level of advanced science instruction in the district.
    
“By working hand-in-hand with scientists I was able to define my passion for astronomy and I reassure myself that I want to be an astrophysicist in the future,” Valeria said of her experience. “The Freeport Public School District provided me with the opportunity to take a scientific computing class taught by Dr. Biersach, a scientist at BNL. I am very grateful to Dr. Pereira, science director at Freeport Schools, for making me aware of the PING opportunity, deciding who would write my recommendation letters and exposing me to different areas of scientific research like computer programming. I am also grateful for all my ESL teachers who taught me how to communicate and express myself.”