One of the ultimate goals of InStAR and the Astronomy Research Seminar is to have a lasting, foundational impact upon students and their views and understanding of science, the scientific process, publications, critical thinking, and being a broadly and technically educated citizen in the modern world. We think that one of the best ways to measure that impact is from the students themselves and in their own words. What follows are a collection of testimonials from past Seminar participants. They describe their Seminar experiences and how it has affected their lives in ways personal, academic, and professional.
"I met Russ Genet in 2007 when I signed up for the fall astronomy seminar at Cuesta College. With Russ’ guidance, I submitted my first paper to the Journal of Double Star Observations on the very first day of class. That semester, I completed six published research projects on topics including double stars, asteroids, and exoplanets. I was hooked on research, and continued to study double star astrometry, exoplanet transit timings, and undergraduate student research as a form of science education through my college and post-baccalaureate life. It all started with my love of astronomy and the research seminar.
Russ taught me far more than the practice of science alone. He has invited me to co-edit four books with himself and others from which I learned a great deal about communicating science with varied audiences ranging from the public to professionals. These books contain papers discussing small telescopes, amateur and professional science, and education through student research as well as selected papers outlining historical and recent trends in double star astrometry.
Not only has the research seminar prepared me for doing science, it has led directly to my current profession. After giving presentations to the American Astronomical Society and the Society for Astronomical Science, I found that the only thing I loved more than learning and participating in astronomy as a field was sharing its discoveries and rich history with others. Russ invited me to be a guest lecturer in his astronomy classes at Cuesta College and eventually I was invited to co-teach the Astronomy Research Seminar for several years. In 2011, I organized an astronomical research seminar (following Russ’s model) in Chico, California for local advanced placement high school students. Many of the students from these seminars have gone on to receive higher degrees in science themselves.
Given my broad interest in teaching science, it may come as no surprise that I recently received a Master in Teaching degree and am now teaching physics and astronomy professionally. Work in education has given me opportunities that I never thought possible, and is a direct result of my work with Russ over the last decade. I still participate in research with Russ and his students occasionally and we are currently working on another book that explicitly describes student and amateur astronomical research. My professional career has its roots in the astronomy research seminar and it will be a part of my life for many years to come."
– Jolyon Johnson, Physics Teacher, Newport High School Belleview, WA
Students and instructors conducting observations at Pine Mountain Observatory, near Bend, Oregon, in July 2009. At left, Russ Genet (2nd from left), Jolyon Johnson (2nd from right) and other participants prepare for nightly observing. At right, students practice setting up telescopes; Jolyon Johnson is at the far right of the photo. Photos courtesy of Jolyon Johnson.