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.

Astronomy 2895 (Autumn semester)

Hi everyone,

It’s been a long time since I posted anything on the blog.  Spring semester was crazy, with both professional and personal matters that required my full attention.  But now that summer is here, I’m able to get back to posting news and other items of interest to majors in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

I would like to bring your attention to our seminar Astronomy 2895.  This seminar is intended for first- and second-year students, but anyone can take it.  The course description reads

Prospective astronomy majors will meet weekly with different astronomy faculty to learn about current research topics, facilities, and opportunities available in the undergraduate astronomy program.

In the upcoming semester, we will have several lectures and Q/A sessions with faculty, postdocs, and senior students, who will tell us about their research into astrophysics, physics education, and many other topics. We will also have lots of discussion on study habits and survival skills for Astro majors, along with small research projects you can undertake in areas that interest you. This is a great way to see the variety of research and teaching opportunities in our department, to meet others who are excited by astrophysics, and (especially for early students) to explore ways to be successful in astronomy or any other topic.

The seminar meets Tuesday afternoons from 4:10 to 5:05 in 1005 Smith Laboratory.

Banneker-Aztlan Institute at Harvard

This morning I received an announcement from Harvard about a summer research opportunity for students from groups underrepresented in astronomy.

From their website, the Banneker-Aztlan Institute

The Banneker-Aztlán Institute summer program is a full-time, ten-week research and study experience. We prepare undergraduate students of color for graduate programs in astronomy by emphasizing research, building community, and encouraging debate and political action through social justice education.

Requirements are demographic information about yourself, a resume, and short essays on personal development and your aspirations for astronomy.  Academic transcripts and letters of recommendation are not required.  Students receive a competitive stipend to cover food and other personal expenses during the program.

Who should apply?  Again, from their website:

Our programs target undergraduate juniors from backgrounds historically marginalized from academia and the astronomical sciences in particular. While there is a preference for students of color, we welcome applications from students of all backgrounds. Our application review process considers historical disparities and the tendency for traditional application practices to reproduce racial disparities in academia.

The deadline is February 15, so if you are interested you should move quickly.

What do astronomers do?

Write blog posts!   And other stuff….

Here’s a good article called So you want to be an astronomer? It contains the results of a large-scale study of the many varied activities of professional astronomers.

A new study including 478 US astronomers provides a glimpse into the world of those who practice astronomy today. “What Do Astronomers Do: A Survey of U.S. Astronomers’ Attitudes, Tools and Techniques, and Social Interactions Engaged in Through Their Practice of Science” was completed by AUI’s STEM Education Development Officer, Tim Spuck.

Give it a read! One of the problems of studying at a university is that the astronomers you meet are mainly professors. This is only one path to take. The astronomical world is very large, and there are dozens of ways to contribute to the astronomical sciences.

Elementary school education opportunity

Here’s an email I received recently.  Note that the first orientation session is very soon.

Are you interested in helping elementary students understand science by engaging them in hands-on activities? Then Scientific Thinkers is for you! The Scientific Thinkers program is designed to bring OSU undergraduate and graduate scientists into the 1st – 5th grade classrooms at Innis Elementary, a Columbus public school. The Scientific Thinkers program sends scientist volunteers out to the school every other week during the school year to teach a hands-on lesson (the lessons will be available prior to going to the classroom).

Before going to the school, each volunteer must complete an orientation. The orientation for this program will be Tuesday, January 23, at 1:00 pm in 1080 Physics Research Building. Immediately following the orientation, we will also have a training session covering the visits in January and February.

It is important to note that the classroom visits are on Tuesdays and you are in the classroom teaching from 2:00-3:00pm, but you need to be ready to leave campus by no later than 1:00 pm in order to make it to the school and have time for set up. Also, the school is about twenty minutes away from campus. We help set up carpools for the volunteers.

Please let us know if you are unable to attend this orientation session, but are interested in volunteering for the program. Please RSVP to if you plan to attend.

For more information about the program, please visit:

If you have any questions or are interested in volunteering, please reply to

Thanks and see you at orientation!

Michelle McCombs, Annika Diaz, and Erin Rinehart
Scientific Thinkers Coordinators

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).

Astronaut Greg Johnson to visit OSU January 8

Here’s an email I received this morning.
Hello from the College of Nursing. We have an upcoming event that astronomy students (and their instructors as well) might be interested in: astronaut Greg Johnson will be coming to visit on January 8th. Johnson has served as an Air Force T-38 flight trainer, a space shuttle pilot/NASA engineer. He piloted Endeavor to the International Space Station twice, spent over 30 days on the International Space Station and orbited the earth almost 500 times. Currently, he’s the director of CASIS, which manages the International Space Station’s lab.
On January 8, Johnson will come to the College of Nursing’s Innovation Studio, our moveable maker space, which will be at the College of Engineering, in Dreese Hall. For more information, see this article on our website. CASIS is challenging OSU students, faculty and staff to dream up innovations that might be testable on the International Space Station.
All students, faculty and staff are welcome at the free reception at noon in Dreese Hall. (to register, click here.)
Would you please share this information at morning coffee—and anywhere else it might find interested listeners?
Thank you!