Press Release

UCF Sponsors 39th Annual Division of Planetary Sciences Conference in

By SpaceRef Editor
October 3, 2007
Filed under , ,

ORLANDO, Oct. 3, 2007 — The University of Central Florida is bringing the biggest conference of planetary scientists in the world to Orlando from Sunday, Oct. 7, to Friday, Oct. 12.

The Division of Planetary Sciences, a group within the American Astronomical Society, meets annually and draws about 1,000 scientists from around the globe. The scientists present papers about their research and speak about common issues facing them, including technology and how to interest more women and younger people in science careers.

This year’s conference — the first in Florida — will be held at the Rosen Centre Hotel on International Drive. The planetary sciences group at UCF was key in bringing the event to Orlando. The conference director is Humberto Campins, who is also director of the planetary sciences group housed in the Department of Physics at UCF.

“This is an exciting moment for planetary sciences,” Campins said. “And for UCF to have the opportunity to host the event is historic. It is another sign that we are growing and gaining a reputation of excellence in the field.”

UCF has no astronomy degree program, yet it boasts eight faculty members who regularly publish research that has implications for interplanetary travel in the future. The faculty has received millions of dollars worth of grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation.

The university also has the largest public telescope in Florida and offers public viewings on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Many of the students who graduate with physics degrees with an emphasis in astronomy immediately pick up jobs with NASA and other companies such as Lockheed Martin.

For more information about the conference, visit http://physics.ucf.edu/DPS07/.

Here are some interesting facts about the conference:

— Seven UCF planetary sciences professors and four students will present their research findings. Each professor has published research in a variety of highly respected scientific journals. The undergraduate students, Sara Navarro (junior, Carlsbad, N.M.), William Bowman (senior, Jacksonville), Kelsey Hargrove (senior, Satellite Beach) and Devon Clautice (senior) will present on a variety of topics from asteroids to extra-solar planets.

— More than 1,000 schoolchildren from Orange County will visit the conference. They will see a room full of poster presentations that highlight the research findings from many of the conference attendees and participate in more than 10 interactive science stations. This is something DPS does every year to encourage children to seek careers in mathematics and science.

— A large contingent of scientists from South America and Spain are expected at this year’s conference. One of UCF’s professors works part-time in Spain using the largest telescope in the world. Hispanic astronomers are making names for themselves in the planetary sciences world. Early this summer Spaniards discovered the first planet outside the solar system that appears to be “Earth-like.”

— UCF is contributing to the local economy by hosting the DPS conference. According to the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, meeting visitors spent an “average of $858 per person per trip for an estimated economic impact of $3.40 billion in 2006.” (http://www.orlandoinfo.com/research/meetings/groups.cfm )

— NASA will contribute heavily to the conference, offering a variety of talks and workshops about topics such as writing winning grant proposals and a discussion about the latest technology NASA is considering for solar system exploration missions of the future. Visit http://physics.ucf.edu/DPS07/event-details.php?abnight#abnight for a complete schedule

— Female scientists will discuss “Women in Leadership” during a lunch program from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 10.

SpaceRef staff editor.