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The InStAR Team

Rachel Freed, M.S.


Rachel Freed is a co-founder of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR), as well as a Seminar instructor, with a mission to incorporate true scientific research into secondary and undergraduate education. She is also a faculty lecturer in the School of Education at Sonoma State University and on the Science Organizing Committee for the annual conference on Robotic Telescopes, Student Research, and Education (RTSRE).

After earning a degree in Biology from UC Davis she used electron microscopy to study hippocampal synaptic transmission at U.C. San Diego and then went on to earn a M.S. in Neuroscience from Northwestern University, where she studied neural transmission using confocal microscopy and electrophysiology.


Rachel then taught high school chemistry and astronomy over the course of the next 15 years, during which time she conducted research on chemistry education, helping to design, build and evaluate an online formative assessment system for high school chemistry. She is involved in curriculum design and implementation and trains educators in the use of technology as a vehicle for change in education. She has been an amateur astronomer for over 15 years and is involved in public outreach bringing astronomy and spectroscopy to the general public. She is a public speaker with a focus on bringing telescopes to students around the globe. Her degrees in biology and neuroscience help to inform Rachel’s work in development of educational tools and curricula as well as outreach programs and teacher training. Email:


Kalée Tock, M.S.


Kalée Tock earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Harvard University and an M.S. from the Stanford University Department of Chemistry. She then earned a second Master's degree in Learning, Design, and Technology from the Stanford School of Education. Her chemistry graduate work was focused in bioinorganic chemistry, where she worked on magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy on Manganese complexes.  


Kalée now teaches chemistry and astronomy at Stanford Online High School, where the Astronomy Research Seminar is the spring semester followup to a more typical 1-semester astronomy course in fall. She loves designing science experiments, some of the best ideas for which have come straight out of the lab notebooks of SOHS students. She has supervised the design, launch, and retrieval of two weather balloons with students and looks forward to future launches! When not teaching, she enjoys camping, biking, and reading fiction of all genres.


Russell M. Genet, Ph.D.


Russell M. Genet (Russ), is the founder and early developer of the Astronomy Research Seminars, that began in the Fall of 2001 as Central Arizona College and were later continued at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California. He founded the Fairborn Observatory in 1979, named after the nearby town of Fairborn, Ohio, not far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where Russ worked as a research and development supervisor. He developed automatic telescopes and fully robotic observatories with Louis Boyd from 1980-1992. Their first fully automatic operation was in 1983, and his 1985 book, Microcomputer Control of Telescopes (with Mark Trueblood), provided a guide to the computerization and automation of many telescopes. 


The Fairborn Observatory was relocated to Mt. Hopkins in southern Arizona in 1985, and recommenced operation in 1986 as the Automatic Photoelectric Telescope Service in conjunction with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. By the late 1980s, the Fairborn Observatory consisted of seven, fully automated and remotely accessible telescopes including four 0.8-meter telescopes, all operating at an unmanned observatory. Russ and Douglas Hall (Vanderbilt University) co-founded the International Amateur-Professional Photoelectric Photometry (IAPPP) Association in 1980. The IAPPP, which played a key role in the development of robotic observatories, featured annual meetings, and its quarterly journal, the IAPPP Communications, was published for a quarter century.  


The IAPPP West morphed into the Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS) and is still going strong some 35 years later. Russ served as the 52nd President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1993-1995). For the past decade, the Astronomy Research Seminar he initiated has produced more than 100 student team papers on double star astrometry. Russ has been active in the advancement of speckle interferometry on smaller telescopes. He is a member of the faculty at California Polytechnic State University, Cuesta College, and Concordia University. Russ has a BS in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Astronomy. Email:


Reed Estrada, MBA, M.Eng.


Reed Estrada is currently the lead test pilot for Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk flight test program at Edwards AFB, CA. Prior to his employment as a test pilot he was a primary Test Director for the B-2 bomber program at Palmdale Air Force Plant 42. Reed served 24 years in the United States Air Force as a B-52 bomber pilot and senior instructor pilot retiring as the Chief Pilot for the Air Forces Combat Flight Instructor Course (CFIC) at Barksdale AFB, LA. 


Reed holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Embry Riddle University as well as a Masters in Engineering from Steven Institute of Technology and a Bachelors of Science degree in Micro Biology from Brigham Young University.  He has been involved with astronomy for the past 20 years including the manufacture of large amateur telescopes and participation in Russ Genet’s Astronomy Research Seminars as an instructor and an observer.

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Briget Eastep, Ph.D.


Briget Eastep earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies and English from Cornell College.  Then after pursuing a career in outdoor education, she earned her Master's in Recreation and Environmental Education from the University of New Mexico and her Doctorate in Natural Resource Recreation Mangement from the University of Utah. Briget's passion is connecting people to the natural world through significant learning opportunities. She became the first professor of Outdoor Recreation at Southern Utah University in 2007 and has been the Director of Outdoor Engagement at SUU since 2013.     


Currently, as the Director of Outdoor Engagement, Briget and her team at SUU offer experiential learning programs in partnership with public land managers in Southern Utah. Our programs include:


  • The Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative, placing 250 students in public land internships each year 

  • Semester in the Parks, hosting up to 12 students to live and learn at Bryce Canyon National Park each fall semester

  • Outdoor EDGE, hosting 200+ students each year completing the experiential learning requirement for SUU by completing internships, research, or independent projects learning in the outdoors.


Briget's scholarship interests include using action research and appreciative inquiry to understand educational partnerships and creating opportunities for significant learning in the outdoors. Outside of work, Briget enjoys playing in the outdoors with her family and friends. 

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Cheryl Genet, Ph.D.



Cheryl Genet earned her bachelor’s in Psychology and her master’s and doctoral degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and focuses her current research on scientific paradigms, cosmological stories, interfaith relations, process-relational philosophy, and understanding our emerging global community. She is also the director of the Science and Humanities Program for the Collins Educational Foundation (CEF), and developer of the Flourishing Earth Project


As the Managing Editor of the Collins Foundation Press (CFP) from 2002-2017, she co-chaired and co-edited three conferences and resulting books in the CFP/CEF Humanity Conference and Book Series: Evolution of Religion: Studies, Theories, and Critiques, The Evolutionary Epic: Science's Story and Humanity's Response, and Science, Wisdom, and the Future: Humanity’s Quest for a Flourishing Earth.


She currently teaches Philosophy and World Religions at Cuesta College, in San Luis Obispo, and is developing the Canvas Course Management System and other related educational materials for the Astronomy Research Seminars at Cuesta College and for the Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR).​​

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