When I saw the opportunity to attend a campus seminar event for STEM I was super excited. I had been wanting to attend one of the many intriguing and fascinating seminars on Ohio State’s campus, but had not set aside time to actually attend one yet. I opened the STEM calendar to see which seminars were to be presented in the next few days, and one immediately caught my eye: ‘Astronomy Colloquium – Determination of the Evolutionary States of Red Giant Stars.’ I have had a pretty strong interest in astronomy for years so I thought that this was the perfect one to attend over the biochem seminar offered around the same time. I had originally planned on going alone, but when I arrived to the lecture hall where the lecture was, several of my friends and even my roommate were there. This was nice because at least I was not the only undergraduate student, or at least freshmen, there.
Before the seminar actually started, several of the graduate students gave us looks when we sat down. The people behind us asked if we were astronomy majors or if we were first years, and also asked if we were part of their group of undergraduate students required to attend, which I did not realize that was something astronomy undergrads had to do. The seminar began when the professor introduced the graduate student, whose name was Mathieu Vrard from Paris, France. My first impressions from his presentations were not great, as he talked very quickly, quietly, and in a thick french accent, which made it very difficult to understand him. As the seminar went on, however, I felt like I was able to understand him better and better.
The seminar was interesting as it talked about new techniques and methods of determining the evolutionary states of Red Giant stars, which can be difficult as the evolution of the star depends on several factors. Mathieu had interned at an observatory in Paris and talked about how they compared and measured the pressure waves versus gravitational waves present in the star. By observing these types of seismological waves in the Red Giant stars, they discovered that the Red Giant star were special in that they had mixed modes, where the modes of the pressure waves and the modes of the gravitational waves can couple and become ‘mixed modes,’ but in main sequence stars, the frequencies of these oscillations are not similar. By measuring these mixed modes, they can put constraints on observing the Red Giant core structure. He then talked about 5 different methods in evaluating the mixed modes of Red Giants. The main differences in these methods were the amount of time to observe the stars (which was typically between 3 months to a year) and the accuracy and efficiency in determining the states of the stars. One of these methods were very interesting as it involved using artificial intelligence to look at thousands of stars and compare them, and then using a neural network, determine the state of a specific star.
This seminar intrigued me, even though when it first started I felt like I was not going to understand any of the content. I actually learned a lot from this seminar, not only about the actual content about stars, but also about how research in astronomy is conducted and presented. I think that as an undergraduate student, attending STEM seminars is a great way to get some experience in how STEM research works and also get connected to other people interested in the same subject. Going into the seminar I expected understand a little more than I actually did, but I was still able to learn a lot about the subject. Overall it was a good experience!