CARSE holds its second annual meeting
By Idem Osorio De Jesús (email@example.com)
Friday, December 1, 2023
The Center for Advanced Radio Sciences and Engineering (CARSE), of the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus (UPRM), held its second annual meeting, with the objective of exposing its most recent projects and initiatives in the research of new concepts in radio astronomy, atmospheric sciences, spectrum monitoring, and radio frequency interference mitigation techniques, with a focus on direct application to scientific observations.
Representatives of the National Science Foundation (NSF), an agency that has subsidized the Center since its opening in January 2022, as well as representatives from several collaborating companies and entities, as part of the NSF Affiliate Program Industry attended the event. This second meeting was also highlighted by the presentation of posters of the research work, by the students participating in CARSE.
“The purpose of this meeting includes the evaluation of our project by the NSF. At the same time, this year, for the first time we included an exhibition from some of the industry’s collaborators. In addition, we have representation from the Río Piedras and Humacao campuses of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), people who have been working, mainly, on issues related to the area of radio astronomy. It is the first time we are doing it to begin to expand and develop additional collaborations,” explained Dr. Rafael Rodríguez Solís, director of CARSE, while highlighting the presence of entities such as Rohde & Schwarz, Collins Aerospace and National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
According to the professor of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, around 25 students displayed their projects in the lobby of the Student Center, which is aligned with the Center’s objective of providing platforms that strengthen their skills, facing the professional future.
“Today we have a representation of the students who work at the Center, some in the engineering part in the development of receivers and antennas; and others, in digital signal processing to eliminate interference. Likewise, radio astronomy students participate and are looking at interference issues with Dr. Allison Smith, who is a new professor in the Department of Physics, specialized in that field. We also have Physics students who are doing work in atmospheric sciences, with a radiometer that was installed earlier this year, as part of our efforts. In addition, a very active group was formed from the Center for University Access (CUA), which is our main source of outreach for students who are in intermediate and high schools, whose mentors do spectacular work with the community so that most disadvantaged young students see our University as an alternative career path,” he reiterated.
Some of the student researchers shared the topic of their projects and their experience in the process, such as Jaime Alejandro Álvarez Valencia, who is pursuing his master’s degree in the Department of Physics and whose work, Predicting the Height and Behavior of the Planetary Boundary Layer in the Western Region of Puerto Rico, Using a Neural Network System, is supervised by Dr. Héctor J. Jiménez González.
“We work with a radiometer that is located on the roof of the Physics building, which measures the radiation of the sky, in this case, and with that we obtain different data. Initially, this instrument provides temperature and humidity data, but with this information we can assume other additional variables. My project consists of calculating the PBL or Planetary Boundary Layer, which is the first layer of the troposphere, a very important one, because it is the one that interacts with the surface. All the air we breathe, aerosols and pollutants are in the PBL. Our interest is to identify the point where it is, since it is where cloud formation occurs. So, we can more easily predict when it is going to rain, different phenomena that can occur and analyze air quality. My goal is that when we are clear about the way we are calculating it, we will predict future days. In this way, we make it available through the website and the Climatology Office so that people can access that information, carry out analysis and use it for their own benefit,” explained Jaime, a native of Medellín, Colombia.
Similarly, Larry L. Therán Suárez, doctoral student of Electrical Engineering, stated that his project Low Power Receiver Front-end Design for Millimeter-wave Spectrum Monitoring, under the direction of Dr. Rodríguez Solís, is closely related to one of the purposes core of CARSE.
“Basically, we are working on the design of an interference mitigation system that will be used in the radiometer that is in the Physics Department. Our system has the advantage of being small and portable. Usually, nowadays these tend to be very large; so the novelty of our proposal is that we can take it to different places so that it meets its objective,” emphasized Larry, who completed his undergraduate studies in his native Colombia and his master’s degree in Physics at UPRM, under the supervision of Dr. Sergiy Lysenko.
On the other hand, the Center for University Access (CUA) also presented two posters, one to expose its work as an outreach component of CARSE for young students in the region, titled Educational Justice for Youth in Mayagüez; and another by a graduate student, who studies the interaction between both efforts with her proposal Examining the Integration of CUA & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within CARSE Initiatives, whose mentors are doctors Sandra L. Soto Santiago and Jocelyn A. Géliga Vargas, also directors of the CUA.
“We work with students from public schools in the municipality of Mayagüez, helping them to reinforce educational justice and address this inequity in the education system in Puerto Rico. We offer them free tutoring and mentoring services twice a week. We even provide them with workshops to promote their university aspirations. It is really to help them realize what is done here and that they can study at the university,” shared Emily Burgos Vélez, Chemical Engineering student.
The CUA mentor explained that the mission of this group merges with that of CARSE by complementing its services with a series of workshops to promote university aspirations by professionals from the STEM disciplines who guide them on the professional work of a scientist, so that they are identified.
“Many of these workshops are intended to broaden their horizon and see the different study possibilities they can aspire to. I feel that in that sense, CARSE adds value to our project and we to CARSE too,” added Nehemías Toro Padrón, Comparative Literature student and CUA mentor.
Likewise, Paola M. Rodríguez García, who is pursuing her master’s degree in the Department of English and also works as a mentor at CUA, spoke about her research aimed at the synergy between the two programs.
“This project focuses on the interaction of a Center oriented towards STEM careers, such as CARSE, with the educational justice, diversity, equity and inclusion that CUA represents,” emphasized Paola, who hopes to confirm her hypothesis that these principles transcend for example, in the way the program recruits, teaches courses and even conducts research.
The meeting featured an opening and general presentation of the Center for Advanced Radio Science and Engineering and spanned three days at various locations on campus. Dr. Rodríguez Solís announced that in the end they hoped to have initial recommendations from the NSF on the progress they have made this recent year, and part of their plans include expanding the number of students and collaborations with companies in both Puerto Rico and the United States.
“We hope that this project has an impact on raising the image of the University so that all these students can leave with better preparation and a different vision. That when they go out to their respective jobs, they have that experience that fulfills them and helps them,” the professor pointed out.