Physics and Astronomy Colloquium Schedule

(If you want on the Colloquium announcements email list, please send Joe Carson a note)

SPRING 2021 Colloquium Schedule

(Usually Thursdays at 1:45 in RITA 387)

February 4th, 2021   
Nilda Oklay-Vincent (Nature Communications) 

Title:Publishing in Nature Journals

Abstract: Dr. Nilda Oklay-Vincent, Associate Editor of Nature Communications, will explain the editorial process, as well as the relationship between the Nature journals, provide tips on how to write a successful manuscript for any of the Nature journals and present an overview of the astronomy content of Nature Communications including recent highlights.

February 11th, 2021   
Tucker Compton (NASA Goddard) 

Title:The Geophysics of Climate Change: Gravity, Radar, Temperature, & Total Solar Irradiance

Abstract: My talk will cover radar altimetry for sea level rise; the retrievals of surface mass changes from gravity fields for ice sheets and aquafers; surface temperature observations, bore hole temperature, and O16/O18 isotopic temperature retrieval methods; CO2 concentration reconstructions; and total solar irradiance determinations. I’m looking forward to a discussion of the physical basis for understanding our dynamic planet.

February 18th, 2021   
Steven F. Wolf (East Carolina University) 

Title:Science practices in introductory physics labs using Argument Driven Inquiry: Curriculum, Assessment, and Implementation

Abstract: At East Carolina University, the physics faculty have been transforming our Introductory Lab Curriculum to privilege authentic science practices as a part of our XLABs (Cross-Disciplinary Lab Transformation) project (NSF-IUSE: #1725655) using the curricular format Argument Driven Inquiry (ADI). ADI is a curricular format which engages students in a vast range of scientific practices which include designing experiments, analyzing and interpreting data, and engaging in argument from evidence. Indeed, since the beginning of the altered instructional paradigm, we have been deploying this curriculum online using both synchronous and asynchronous activities. Transformed curricula were piloted in spring 2018 in Physics 1 and fall 2018 in Physics 2. I will discuss our curricular framework, practical assessment, and implementation challenges. In particular, we will discuss how we have worked with faculty to forge a consensus around the transformed learning goals, as well as the administrative changes that are required to sustain the new curricula.

February 25th, 2021   
N. Brice Orange
OrangeWave Innovative Science, LLC – CEO & Physicist
Etelman Observatory – Operations & Astrophysicist 

Title:The Etelman Observatory: A New Operational Model, with Multi-disciplinary Science, Education, and Outreach Initiatives

Abstract: The Etelman Observatory of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is the southernmost and easternmost optical observatory in the United States, located on the island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. This approximately 3000 square foot facility is home to the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope (VIRT), a 0.5m robotic telescope with wide coverage of both the Northern and Southern skies. Astronomers from UVI's Physics program manage and carry out VIRT's observing program, and industry scientists from OrangeWave Innovative Science, LLC oversee the operation and maintenance of the observatory, its one acre grounds, and VIRT. In addition to its astronomy program, the observatory: serves as the data and program management center for the US Virgin Islands (USVI) Climate Monitor program; is a key research and training component in UVI's Physics and Engineering programs; supports a diverse collection of scientific, technology development, educational, and outreach initiatives; and is expanding to support tourism. Despite recent challenges due to severe hurricanes and the current pandemic, the observatory has dramatically increased its scientific production, including VIRT GCN notices following-up gamma-ray bursts, and participation in time domain and multi-messenger astrophysics collaborations. Moreover, while continuing to provide rigorous research and hands-on engineering activities for undergraduate and high school students in the USVI and US mainland, we are improving the observatory's physical and digital infrastructures, rejuvenating its grounds, and exploring the introduction of sustainable small-scale farming. These Etelman Observatory successes will be detailed by highlighting 2018-Present activities, and summarizing ongoing staff and student activities, with emphasis on their research and engineering projects. Current and future areas of growth and collaboration will also be discussed.

March 4th, 2021   
Alessondra Springmann (Lunar & Planetary Laboratory at University of Arizona) 

Title:Radar Love: The Scientific and Cultural Legacies of Arecibo Observatory's Planetary Radar System

Abstract: Asteroids do concern me, Admiral: short of sending spacecraft to an asteroid, the best way to learn about asteroids is to zap them with radar. Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was home to the world's largest single-dish radio telescope and the most powerful planetary radar system for asteroid studies. The 305-meter diameter facility dedicated hundreds of hours a year to improving our knowledge of near-Earth asteroids and comets with planetary radar. Radar observations reveal a wide variety of asteroids shapes, surface features, and sizes, as well as asteroid moons. Important not only for robotic solar system exploration of asteroids, radar-derived asteroid shape models help us plan for potential asteroid hazard mitigation and future human exploration of asteroids. I will show recent results from the Arecibo planetary radar system and discuss its legacy, from its human and scientific impacts, as well as the future of the observatory.

Bio: Alessondra Springmann is a planetary science PhD candidate at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, studying meteorites, comets, and asteroids in a variety of wavelengths, from visible to radio. For two years she worked at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, using the megawatt planetary radar system to find asteroids before they found us. Alessondra has a BA in astrophysics from Wellesley College, and an MSc from MIT. She has worked for NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and is an award-winning educator and speaker. In her first years of graduate school she worked on NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. In her spare time she hikes, sews face masks, and herds cats. You can find more about Alessondra at or

March 11th, 2021   
Meredith Rawls (Vera C. Rawls Observatory) 

Title:Science, Software, and Big Data with Vera C. Rubin Observatory

Abstract: Vera C. Rubin Observatory and its Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) boasts an 8.4-m diameter mirror, a camera the size of a small bus, and a 3.2-gigapixel detector. It will image the entire southern sky from Chile every few nights beginning in 2023, and enable astrophysics on all scales, from near-Earth asteroids to cosmic acceleration. With nightly data volumes around 20 TB and a final data release of 15 PB, LSST is ushering in a new paradigm for how astronomers access and use data. The software is at least as important of the science! In this talk, I will describe how data and software from Rubin Observatory will revolutionize the field and share how you can get ready for a deluge of data.

Bio:Meredith Rawls is a research scientist and software developer in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington. She writes software to handle terabytes of nightly data from Vera C. Rubin Observatory's Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), which will ultimately become the highest resolution movie of the night sky ever made. Her background is in stellar astrophysics, and lately she studies the plethora of newly-launched low-Earth-orbit satellites in the hopes observers worldwide don't lose the night sky.