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Meet the Latino Initiative Program’s 2022 Summer Interns

The eighth cohort of interns participated in an array of research projects, including studying giant molecular clouds and air pollution.

This summer, seven area undergraduates were awarded internships at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian thanks to the Latino Initiative Program (LIP).

The internships ran from June 6 to August 12 and took place in-person and on campus for the first time in over two years.

Now in its eighth year, LIP immerses undergraduates in an astronomy research project and provides extensive mentorship opportunities with CfA scientists and engineers. Students complete 35 hours of work per week and are paid for their time through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

"Many of our participants are first-generation college students," says Christine Crowley, who established the program to encourage underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in STEM.

Since she established LIP in 2015, Crowley has witnessed 39 students complete the program. All leave the internships with new skillsets and feeling confident in their ability to pursue a degree in STEM, she says.

Meet the newest cohort of students and learn about their projects below.

Melanie Guerra
Advisor(s): Daina Bouquin and Katie Frey
School: University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Melanie Guerra is a rising junior majoring in chemistry and minoring in physics. She hopes to pursue chemistry and physics in graduate school and work for the FBI one day. As an intern, Guerra utilized digital forensics to understand how Harvard's Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection was processed alongside staff in the Wolbach Library. She undertook digital forensics tasks in order to map the digital ecosystem associated with the legacy plate digitization workflow and photometry processing pipeline. She hopes to continue to learn more about digital forensics and how it is used in science.



Miranda Harkess
Advisor(s): Joseph Hora
School: University of Massachusetts – Boston
Miranda Harkess is a rising senior majoring in physics. As an intern, Harkess will be working with astronomer Joseph Hora to analyze and better understand the process of star formation in the outer regions of the Milky Way galaxy. Her project involves using infrared spectra that was obtained from NASA's infrared telescope on Maunakea to analyze and understand the physical properties of young stars. Using this data will help determine the spectral types and show the relations of the properties for young stars to the IRAC’s photometry. Harkess participated in the internship to expand her knowledge of star formation and build her analytical skills. Outside of research and school, Miranda loves to play tennis, take her cats on walks, hang out with her friends and family and crochet.


Dashon Jones
Advisor(s): Julian Munoz
School: University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Dashon Jones is an undergraduate majoring in physics and mathematics. He worked closely with astronomer Julian Munoz to study the properties of light and X-rays in the early universe. The project used 21-cm data to run cosmological simulations using 21cmFAST code, allowing the team to understand which properties of the first X-ray sources we are sensitive to and determine if there were black holes in High-mass X-ray binaries. As an undergraduate, Jones worked in the theoretical cosmology group. Apart from research, Jones enjoys hiking mountains, reading, and hanging out with friends and family.


Adriana Medina
Advisor(s): Sarah Jeffreson and Gus Beane
School: University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Sophomore Adriana Medina is in the midst of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science with particular interest in cyber security and software development. Advisors Sarah Jeffreson and Gus Beane have guided Medina toward crafting the first extensively detailed census of giant molecular cloud (GMC) lifecycles across an entire simulated disk galaxy. The research centers around unveiling the physical properties of the atomic hydrogen clouds that lead to GMC formation and therefore star formation. This is done using Python, self-consistent models of chemical pathways, and cloud properties obtained from these models. Medina spends her free time enjoying nature, volunteering, improving her coding skills, taking up new hobbies, spending time with friends and listening to all sorts of music.


Ryan Mortuza
Advisor(s): Caroline Nowlan and Gonzalo Abad
School: University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Ryhan Mortuza is a rising junior majoring in computer science and minoring in mathematics. Mortuza has always been fascinated by the idea of climate change, and what we can do as a society to prevent it from causing further harm to this planet. As an intern Mortuza worked alongside Caroline Nowlan and Gonzalo Abad to dive deep into the wonders of Earth’s atmosphere, specifically its air quality and the pollution within it. Using various data analysis and computational techniques that satellites use to detect pollutants, Mortuza observed the global distribution and source of these pollutants that contribute toward the mitigation of global warming and climate change. Aside from his passions for computer science and Earth’s environment, Mortuza loves to spend his time working out at the gym, reading various genres of books, gardening, and playing basketball.


Adrian Peguero
Advisor(s): Jason Eastman
School: University of Massachusetts – Boston
Adrian Peguero is a junior majoring in physics. He is an active member of the chess club. As an intern, Peguero worked alongside astronomer Jason Eastman in the discovery and categorization of exoplanets through both observational and instrumental means. His project involved the use of software such as MINERVA and EXOFASTv2. Additionally, Peguero diagnosed and tweaked whichever failures or issues arose. Through the internship, Peguero hoped to gain valuable experience in scientific research and a better understanding of physics through an analytical and programming lens. When not in class, Peguero enjoys chatting with friends and playing the piano and trumpet.


Seijiro Yoshihara
Advisor(s): Edward Tong
School: University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Seijiro Yoshihara is currently a senior mechanical engineering major with a minor in aerospace. He worked with Edward Tong in the Submillimeter Receiver Lab group. As an intern, he explored the application of 3D printing techniques in the development of instrumentation for radio astronomy, as well as investigated novel magnetic circuits for superconducting detectors. Through the program, Yoshihara hopes to expand his skills in engineering such as CAD Modeling and coding. As an undergraduate, Yoshihara works in a lab on campus testing the mechanical properties of knit textiles.