A student from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University was one of 60 students selected nationally by the Council on Undergraduate Research to showcase their work on Capitol Hill during the annual Posters on the Hill session, held April 17-18.
Morgan Menke, an electrical engineering major from Ridgeley, was the sole student from West Virginia selected for the competitive event that gives students the opportunity to showcase their research to congressional members, meet with their representatives and learn about advocacy for undergraduate research.
Menke met with various congressional staff members and federal government officials during the poster symposium, in which she discussed her research that focuses on creating algorithms for real-time analysis of isolated astrophysical pulses. The pulses have been detected by many radio telescopes, including the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
Astrophysical pulses, such as fast radio bursts, are powerful radio signals that flash from space for milliseconds and then disappear. Since their discovery in 2007, only about 30 FRBs have been discovered and little is known about their origin.
Detecting pulses was once only possible using a single sensor receiver, however multiple sensors are now used to widen the view angle of a telescope, allowing for larger data collections from one vantage point.
“Pulses are important to identify because they contain valuable clues to understanding the composition of our universe,” explained Menke. “Currently, there are no fast, real-time methods for pulse signal processing and analysis for telescopes with multiple sensors. As technology improves new algorithms are needed to process the data.”
Under the direction of Natalia Schmid, a professor in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Menke hopes to design better and faster signal detection algorithms that will help scientists and engineers detect pulses in real time from the data collected by multiple sensor telescopes. Being able to obtain that information will give experts a better understanding about space in general.
“Morgan is an absolutely outstanding advisee and collaborator,” said Schmid. “She listens carefully, makes sure that she has a clear understanding of her tasks and follows up without any delay. She also has a very rich scientific background, which is immensely helpful in research. Working with her has been a pleasure and I look forward to continuing our research this fall.”
Menke was also able to visit the offices of Senators Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore Capito and Congressmen Evan Jenkins and David McKinley to discuss the overall importance of undergraduate research.
“It was a really great experience presenting my research to some of our country’s leaders,” said Menke. “All of the offices I visited were very welcoming and the representatives were involved in what I had to say. It’s reassuring to know that the leaders of our country, especially those from West Virginia, not only cared about what I had to say but also felt that the research I had been working on would be beneficial to society. It was great being able to experience this part of my civic duty while also feeling greatly rewarded for all the hard work I’ve been doing.”
This is the third consecutive year a student from WVU has been selected to participate in the event.