Stargazing to Siemens

UF professor mentors high schoolers.

UF Professor of Astronomy Jian Ge wanted to give high school students a different summer camp experience: the opportunity to learn about astronomy with the help of UF’s 50-inch telescope at Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. This summer, he did just that, and in October, 14 students placed at the Siemens Foundation’s annual Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

The students formed several teams who worked with Ge’s research group over the summer. Ge, the creator of the KeckET planet-hunting and the latest planet survey tools, has been sharing his knowledge with high schools since 2010 and guided four students to Siemens over the past two years. Now, through the astronomy summer research camp, that number jumped to 14 — and all of them won. “Nationally, a total of about 400 high school students won this competition,” says Ge. “About 3 percent came from my single Science Talent Training Program.”

Ge has led budding astronomers to not only Siemens, but also top universities. “Sixteen graduated high school students are attending top-tier colleges, such as Yale, MIT, Caltech, Duke, and of course UF,” he says.

Ge mentors the campers even beyond the summer, guiding them through further research at Mt. Lemmon and elsewhere. They learn the basics of astronomical imaging and spectroscopy, especially as it applies to discovering new worlds, of which Ge has found two planets, 16 brown dwarfs, and 400 binary systems. However, Ge sets aside time from his busy schedule to keep nurturing young scientific minds. He hopes to secure a private endowment to support Science Talent Training Program fellowships for graduate students and postdocs. “I want to make this outreach program a permanent program at UF to help train young generations in science talents,” he says.

Postscript: Two of Ge’s summer scholars, Bill Zhu from California and Carrie Li from New Jersey, were named 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars based on research papers written for Ge’s group. Another, Brian Wu, in 2017 gave a TEDxJacksonville
talk on Oct. 20, 2018.

To learn how you can support the Science Talent Training Program, contact the Liberal Arts and Sciences Office of Advancement at 352-294-1971 or

To further support the people, program, or research featured in this story, please visit

Astronomy Department Fund

Dean’s Fund for Excellence