Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Chair

Duncan R Lorimer

Committee Co-Chair

Loren Anderson

Committee Member

Maura McLaughlin

Committee Member

Paul Miller

Committee Member

Natalia Schmid


Using the ensemble of detections from pulsar surveys, we can learn about the sizes and characteristics of underlying populations. In this thesis, I analyze results from the Pulsar Arecibo L-band Feed Array (PALFA) precursor and Green Bank Telescope 350 MHz Drift Scan surveys; I examine survey sensitivity to see how detections can inform pulsar population models, I look at new ways of including young scientists -- high school students -- in the discovery process and I present timing solutions for students' discoveries (including a nearby millisecond pulsar and a pulsar in a wide-orbit double neutron star system).;The PALFA survey is on-going and uses the ALFA 7-beam receiver at 1400 MHz to search both inner and outer Galactic sectors visible from Arecibo (32° ?£? 77° and 168° ?£? 214°) close to the Galactic plane (|b| ? 5°) for pulsars. The PALFA precursor survey observed a subset of this region, (|b| ? 1°) and detected 45 pulsars, including one known millisecond pulsar (MSP) and 11 previously unknown, long-period (normal) pulsars. I assess the sensitivity of the PALFA precursor survey and use the number of normal pulsar and MSP detections to infer the size of each underlying Galactic population. Based on 44 normal pulsar detections and one MSP, we constrain each population size to 107,000+36,000-25,000 and 15,000 +85,000-6,000 respectively with 95% confidence. Based on these constraints, we predict yields for the full PALFA survey and find a deficiency in normal pulsar detections, possibly due to radio frequency interference and/or scintillation, neither of which are currently accounted for in population simulations.;The GBT 350 MHz Drift Scan survey collected data in the summer of 2007 while the GBT was stationary, undergoing track replacement. Results discussed here come from ~20% of the survey data, which were processed and donated to the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC). The PSC is a joint outreach program between WVU and NRAO, involving high school students in the pulsar discovery process -- hands-on, cutting-edge research -- to foster their interest in pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related career paths. The PSC began in 2008; since then, over 100 teachers and 2,500 students from 18 states have participated and discovered seven pulsars. Of these seven, J1400--1431, a bright, nearby MSP shows promising characteristics for inclusion in pulsar timing arrays, which aim to detect gravitational waves by precisely timing an array of MSPs. Two others -- J1821+0155, a disrupted recycled pulsar and J1930--1852 show interesting properties due to interactions with binary companions. PSR J1930--1852 is a partially-recycled, first-to-evolve pulsar in a double neutron star (DNS) system with a high-eccentricity 45 day orbit. Its spin period and orbital period are factors of 2 and 3 higher, respectively, than any previously-known, primary DNS pulsars. We measure the relativistic advance of periastron o=0.00078(4), implying a total system mass of Mtot =2.59(4), which is consistent with other DNS systems. PSR J1930--1852's spin and orbital parameters, however, challenge current DNS evolution models, making it an important system for further investigation.