High orbit

-Typically, the audience for an excellent term paper in an introductory science course for undergraduates would be limited to the student, the faculty member and a few friends and family members.

First-year student Emerald Bresnahan’s paper on the possible connection between the formation of a snowflake and the formation of galaxies has won a world-wide audience.

Last fall, Bresnahan fleshed out an idea she had been contemplating for awhile to produce a term paper she wrote for Professor of Astronomy Tim Barker’s popular course, “The Universe.”

What happened next, however, is extraordinary. She submitted her experiment to YouTube’s Space Lab competition, where it was selected as a finalist from more 2,000 entries. That feat has prompted a number of newspapers, including The Washington Post, to write about Bresnahan’s idea.

If her experiment is selected as one (of two) contest winners in March, it will be performed at the International Space Station.

The competition is decidedly international. More than 60 percent of the entries came from India; just 15 percent from the United States, according an article about Bresnahan published by the Attleboro Sun Chronicle.

The fact that the rules of the contest required Emerald to film herself explaining the idea for a worldwide audience didn’t deter her in the least, she told the Post.

I really believe in my research and I wanted to share it with people. It’s always great to get younger people involved, especially in science. It’s an important topic that should be looked into by everybody, and sharing it could help find answers.

Professor Barker agrees that Bresnahan’s idea has merit. “Hers was the most highly detailed scientific paper I’ve ever received in that course,” he told the Boston Globe in an article published on January 17th [Note: article no longer available on the Globe web site —Editor.].