Empty chairs

Here’s a wonderful essay from 2014 called “Empty Chairs“.  In this, author Azza Cohen, at the time an undergrad major in history, discusses a number of important opportunities that are often ignored.  Chief among these is professor office hours.  Cohen writes:

During a Breakout trip last year, I asked David Super ’80, a professor of law at Georgetown and Princeton alumnus, for his best advice about Princeton. “Go to office hours,” he urged. “The saddest thing at Princeton is empty chairs at office hours.”

I encourage you to read the essay.  Go to office hours.  Take advantage of the opportunities given to you!

If you are in one of my classes. my office hours are Tuesdays from 2:00 – 4:00.  If you want to see me for an advising matter, see my online scheduling tool.  My office is 4033 McPherson Lab.

Music inspired by astronomy












Just saw this in a NASA newsletter:

A new annotated guide (part of a series devoted to resources for enjoying or teaching astronomy) features over 250 pieces of music inspired by serious astronomy, including both classical and popular music examples. YouTube links are given for the vast majority, so you can listen to them. 

 Among the pieces included is:

1) a Hubble Space Telescope cantata,

2) eight rock songs about black holes with reasonable science,

3) a supernova piano sonata,

4) a musical exploration of the Messier catalog of nebulae, clusters, and galaxies,

5) a moving song about Stephen Hawking,

6) Moon songs by the Grateful Dead, George Harrison, and the Police,

7) piano pieces “for children with small hands” named after the constellations,

8) operas about Galileo, Kepler, and Einstein, and many more (including planetary topics from Asteroids to Venus). 

You can access this guide directly by going to: http://bit.ly/astronomymusic

Any favorites of yours on list list?  Any good ones that are missing?  Tell us in the comments below.

GRE scores and graduate school

If you will be applying for grad schools in Astronomy, Physics, or any other subject, you might want to check out an article from the AstroBetter blog about which schools require scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how GRE scores should be used, and what (if anything) they predict.  The article linked above itself has many links that can give you a lot of background.  The American Astronomical Society (AAS) recently issued this statement on the GRE:

Given the research indicating that the GRE and PGRE are poor predictors of graduate student success, that their use in graduate admissions has a particularly negative impact on underrepresented groups, and that they represent a financial burden for many students in pursuing advanced degrees in the astronomical sciences, the AAS recommends that graduate programs eliminate or make optional the GRE and PGRE as metrics of evaluation for graduate applicants. If GRE or PGRE scores are used, the AAS recommends that admissions criteria account explicitly for the known systematics in scores as a function of gender, race, and socioeconomic status, and that cutoff scores not be used to eliminate candidates from admission, scholarships/fellowships, or financial support, in accordance with ETS recommendations.

Check out the article!  It’s very important.  This is one piece of information that you can use when putting together a list of places you are applying to.



Beautiful science visualization

Check out Earth: A Global Map of Wind.  This is a world map, which you can pan and zoom around, showing the current wind patterns on the earth.  Lovely!

Are there good data visualizations, particularly of astronomy, that are your favorites?  Put a link in the comments below.  I’m collecting these things for a new course we are launching in the spring of 2019.  Called Astronomy 1221, it will be an introduction to astronomy focussing on data analytics.  More details on the new course in future posts, and how the course would be a benefit for Astro majors.

Scholarship and Award Opportunities

There are a couple of scholarship and award opportunities that have approaching deadlines.

  1. Arts and Sciences Merit and Need-Based Awards (deadline February 1).
  2. Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Scholarship and International Research Grant (deadline February 5).  Note that non-Honors students may apply for these.

Historically, Astronomy students have done very well in these competitions.  At the very least, applying is very good practice for future job searches or applications for graduate school.  And if you win, consider that it’s a tremendous payoff for the 8 or 10 hours you would spend writing a really compelling essay (when that’s required).

Undergraduate STEM FLAS Fellowships

The East Asian Studies Center seeks applications each year for Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships. These fellowships are available to undergraduate students of junior or senior standing in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field who have successfully completed two years of East Asian language study at the college level.

Deadline for applications is February 1, 2018.

For details, see the full announcement from the East Asian Studies Center.

Campus-wide research opportunities

The Ohio State Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry maintains a website listing research opportunities for students.  A good research experience teaches you many skills, and will help you with future opportunities as a graduate student or in the scientific working world.  Many potential research supervisors might be interested in Astronomy or Physics students, even if the subject of the research project is in a different area.  Several of our majors over recent years have undertaken fun and interesting projects in biophysics, medical research, anthropology, or other subjects.  There are other great resources that this office provides – check it out!