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AGUILAR: There’s nothing more rewarding in research than knowing something about the universe that no other human knows, even for an instant....It’s fun. I get sort of a rush from it.
Jesús Aguilar is a third-year astronomy student at The University of Texas at Austin. He’s one of a handful of students who’ve received hands-on experience in astronomical research from the very start of their college careers.
They’re participants in the Freshman Research Initiative, a program of the University’s College of Natural Sciences. It’s helped hundreds of incoming students get a taste of what research is like in all fields of science.
The students work closely with faculty members and research scientists. In astronomy, they learn how to operate telescopes and collect data — then go out and do it. Later, they analyze the data to see what they’ve found, and work with the professionals to publish their results.
The project is entering its fourth year, and students have studied the evolution of stars, new ways to look for planets, and many other subjects — subjects that help them think about their futures — and about the universe. Second-year student James Diekmann:
DIEKMANN: I think one of the things that I really like most about research is that it actually makes you think. It makes you become more creative, and I really enjoy that. It’s not often that you really get subjects or topics to get you really thinking.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011