Department News

Pooley Awarded Grant from Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Dr. David Pooley, faculty member in the Department of Physics, has received the Cottrell College Science Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). As RCSA describes the award: "The Cottrell College Science Award (CCSA) program, RCSA's oldest initiative, was created in the early 1970s to promote basic research as a vital component of undergraduate education at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs). Program initiatives are aimed at helping early career faculty to start active research programs targeting complex scientific problems. Because most modern problems in science require teamwork and often cross-disciplinary approaches, CCSA encourages collaborative work."

Dr. Pooley's research supported by this grant will focus on understanding the late stages of evolution in the lives of massive stars. As stars age, they lose a portion of their mass in the form of a wind. The amount of material lost in this wind is not well known, and it can vary as the star goes through different stages before finally dying in a violent explosion known as a supernova. The timescales for these stages are thousands to millions of years, so it is impossible to study this in real time. However, certain types of emissions, such as X-rays and emission lines from hydrogen, are produced as a fast-moving shock wave from the supernova races through the material that was shed earlier in the life of the star. X-ray observations and hydrogen emission observations therefore act like a time machine, tracing the mass-loss history of the progenitor star. With this grant, Dr. Pooley will perform a search of existing X-ray satellite observations, and will also equip the SHSU Observatory to perform systematic observations of the hydrogen emission lines from supernovae.

Students Present Posters at American Astronomical Society Meeting in Washington, DC

Two students in Sam Houston State University’s Department of Physics, Anna Kareva and Cale Lewis, joined the department’s Assistant Professor Scott Miller at the recent semi-annual American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Washington, DC on January 5-9, 2014. At this nationally prominent four-day meeting, astronomers and students from every specialty field within the discipline provide presentations on their work. See full story at the College of Sciences website.

Walker Named KITP Scholar

Dr. Joel Walker was named a 2013-2015 KITP Scholar by the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with two weeks of travel to the institute funded for three consecutive years.

Astronomy Faculty Members Bringing an Important ASSET to Area Secondary Educators

Dr. Scott Miller and Dr. C. Renee James of Sam Houston State University's Department of Physics are almost ready to provide an ASSET to regional science teachers. A two-week, on-campus workshop for secondary educators whose courses include an astronomy component, ASSET (Astronomy Summer School of East Texas) will be held from July 15 through July 26, 2013, and then again in the summer of 2014. Dr. Miller and Dr. James were awarded over $200,000, through NASA's Education and Public Outreach in Earth and Space Science arm, to offer educators a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in astronomy as they learn engaging, student-centered activities. With over 25 years' combined experience in astronomical research and astronomy education research, Dr. Miller and Dr. James will be drawing upon the abundant resources from decades of NASA missions.

According to Dr. Miller, "In this workshop we will help teachers incorporate real NASA data in their lesson plans, so they can teach their students HOW we know what we know about astronomy, rather than simply learning it as a bunch of random facts."

The teachers themselves will get to play the role of the student for the first week, as they "test-drive" various astronomy activities that address the required TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and the Next Generation Science Standards with research-backed astronomy education techniques. During the second week, teachers will get to incorporate what they've learned into their own curricula, personalizing it for the students they encounter daily.

"One problem with many workshops is that you get all these ideas, but you don't have time to figure out how to incorporate them into your classes," James said. "By the time the semester starts, you revert to the old methods because changing things is too much effort. But with ASSET, participants will get the chance to show us and the other teachers how they will implement these ideas, and they will provide feedback to each other. They'll make the changes at the workshop, so that they're ready when the school year starts back up."

Distinguished Texas A&M Professor Suntzeff Speaks on “Our Dark Universe” at SHSU

Nicholas B. Suntzeff, a Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor and holder of the Mitchell/Heep/Munnerlyn Chair of Astronomy in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Texas A&M, was a guest lecturer at a public talk presented by the Department of Physics on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, at 7:30 p.m., in Room AB4, Olson Auditorium, on the Sam Houston State University campus. See full story at the College of Sciences website.

During 2008 Dr. Renee James won the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society's Popular Writing Award for her piece in Sky & Telescope, was an invited speaker for the first "Let's Talk!" program that raised money for the Honors Program, and was asked to participate in "Scout Day at Sam" that helped two dozen girl scouts with their astronomy requirements. In addition, Dr. James was nominated for the SHSU Excellence in Teaching Award and won the SPS Physics Professor of the Year Award.

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