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InStAR: Research for a better world

Greetings! Thank you for visiting the inaugural post for InStAR, which stands for the Institute for Astronomical Research. Although this is our first blog post on this web site, and our web site is currently in renovation and redesign, InStAR has a very rich history. This history began about 10 years ago with Dr. Russell Genet, who had a vision to create a student-led astronomical research seminar. This seminar class, led by Dr. Genet, has the fundamental goal of introducing students to the actual practice of scientific research through an astronomical context. More than that, the seminar requires students to produce publishable research in an appropriate scientific journal, which brings home the real-world nature of the seminar even more. This seminar format and its approach has subsequently spread beyond his class to include students, professors, educators, administrators, and observatories from all over the United States and beyond.

InStAR, taking Dr. Genet's initial vision and its subsequent growth, is developing to become the central coordinating hub that will link people who want to be involved in this activity. At the core of this effort will be expansion of the seminar to schools, colleges, cities, and states around the U.S. Our primary focus is on engaging community college and 2-/4-year educators and faculty at institutions lacking such a seminar and, through educating and working with them about teaching the seminar, help these faculty and schools adopt the seminar at their home institutions. Increasing the number of students who experience, understand, and appreciate the value and importance of scientific research will produce a bounty of benefits, which include attracting students to science degrees and professions, training the next generation of scientists, and contributing to the general education and scientific literacy of society, which is very much in need in the U.S. and world today. We live in a society that runs on the strength of the science and technology engine and it is vital that our citizenry understands not only its value, but also the proverbial "nuts and bolts" of how things work.

Anyway, astronomy is an uber cool topic and something that interests almost everyone! The seminar is also on the cusp of topically expanding beyond the original focus on double stars to include asteroids, comets, and planets around other stars, among other emerging topics! You may think this type of research is only for the most highly educated people, but the fact is that performing real, valuable research is something that is within the capability of most people and students. That is what we want to fundamentally show students who are allowed to work together to learn, grapple with problems, wrestle with data, and formulate and test their ideas and hypotheses. It's a formative, engaging process and something that should be embraced. That is what InStAR is all about: bringing people together, advocating and doing science, showing the excitement of the effort, and doing our small part to make the world a better place.

So, as we develop our web site, add content, and bring together people and institutions, consider joining us in one way or the other. We are a dedicated group of educators and volunteers and we hope that you will help us grow into an organization that has a truly wide-ranging reach. Just sent us a message using the Contact Form on our home page and we hope you will join us!

Stay tuned as there is much more to come.

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