Ritter Astrophysical Research Center

Research Opportunities

“Because so many questions of the scientist and of the child are profoundly the same, this is a doorway through which both may enter, to wonder and to grow, to be excited, to stretch to understand, to seek from other worlds the rediscovery of our own.”  — John Turin, Founding Chair, University of Toledo Dept. of Physics & Astronomy

The Ritter Astrophysical Research Center provides unique research opportunities for our undergraduate students, starting as soon as year one. From learning to observe with the one-meter telescope, creating planetarium shows, analyzing data from some of the best telescopes on Earth and in space, to simulating the Universe in your computer, research as an undergraduate can open many doors and give you important real world experience. The number of astronomy majors at the University of Toledo has grown rapidly over the last decade, which has enabled some exciting new research opportunities for our majors.

Some of the available research opportunities in astronomy:

The Ritter one-meter telescope has been substantially overhauled in the past few years and now plays a major role in student training and undergraduate research. The Observing team opens the dome and observes virtually every clear night during the academic year. If you are interested in learning more about joining the observing team, contact: Prof. Jon Bjorkman.

The analysis of astronomical data requires students to learn sophisticated techniques for manipulating data and extracting quantitative measurements using computers. At UToledo, we are assembling several teams, each containing students from freshman to seniors, tasked with the challenge of analyzing data from a wide range of telescopes, including the LDT. In the data analysis teams, students work together to learn these techniques and apply them to cutting edge data. Not only does this immerse them in astrophysical research, but it teaches valuable data processing and programming skills. Much of this work will be done in a new undergraduate data analysis/computing center in McMaster Hall. If you are interested in learning more about joining the data analysis team, contact: Prof. Tom Megeath

Most stars do not form by themselves, but in groups and clusters. These stellar clusters give direct observational insight into many areas of astrophysics, from star formation to galaxy evolution. Exceptional observations of nearby galaxies and their star cluster systems have been taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and are waiting to be analyzed. If you are interested in learning to analyze observations taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, please contact: Prof. Rupali Chandar.
Galaxies are complex ecosystems built up from not just stars, but also richly structured clouds of gas and dust that fuel new star formation and the growth of supermassive black holes in their centers. Observations at long wavelengths enable the exploration of the widely varying physical nature of this gas and dust and tracing its impact on how galaxies form and evolve. If you are interested in learning more about this research opportunity, contact: Prof. JD Smith.

Teams in this group will analyze data from the LDT and other telescopes to search for outbursts from young stars using data from various space telescopes, and to measure the accretion of gas onto young protostars using spectroscopy taken from a range of telescopes, including the LDT. If you are interested in learning more about this research opportunity, contact: Prof. Tom Megeath.

Brown dwarfs fall in the gap between the least massive stars and the most massive planets (like Jupiter) and as a result, they exhibit properties of both. For example, the atmospheres of brown dwarfs contain clouds of rock, liquid iron and water ice. Their existence was predicted theoretically in the 1960s but the first brown dwarfs wasn’t discovered until the mid 1990s. My research focuses on the discovery and characterization of these fascinating worlds and involves using both ground (NASA’s IRTF) and space-based facilities (WISE, HST, Spitzer). If you are interested in learning more about this research opportunity, contact: Prof. Mike Cushing.
If you are interested in learning more about this research opportunity, contact Director Mike Cushing.

Last Updated: 3/31/21