Shai Hills Ghana, March 2010

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Contacts

office
Astronomy 106

email
jfc9va at virginia.edu

fax
+1 434 924 3104

mail
P.O. Box 400325
Charlottesville, VA 22904


Teaching & Outreach

Public outreach and K-12 science education are a priority to me. I am first-generation college educated, and many of the opportunities I've had came only through education. I therefore have a deep appreciation education and a committment to sharing it as effectively as possible. I am grateful to my parents and my mentors in the astronomy departments at Columbia University and University of Virginia. My outreach efforts and teaching experience follow.

Current EPO involvement

High school astronomy research advising
I work in a small team of UVa graduate students to mentor high school students at Central Virginia Governor's School (CVGS) on 8-month long research projects. CVGS is a specialized science school for gifted students in Lynchburg, VA, about 60 miles away from Charlottesville. Because of the distance between us and the students, we've worked to develop online tutorials and assessments in order to bring the students through background astronomy concepts and terminology, low undergraduate level spectroscopy, data analysis, and scientific presentations in written, poster, and oral forums.

This year, six students are analyzing GBT data on megamasers, astrochemistry, and pulsars. Two students are completing astrochemistry projects, looking at molecular abundance ratios in diffuse gas located between us and the Galactic center. The students will handle data from the PRebiotic Interstellar MOlecular Survey, detailed on the PRIMOS site and on my research page. PRIMOS data shows absorption line profiles of low energy rotational transitions of a handful of molecules. Previous astrochemistry students have used GBT data and ARO 12-meter data to look at organic chemistry in star forming regions and the AGB star IRC +10216.

Dark Skies Bright Kids
Dark Skies Bright Kids is a volunteer organization run by members of the University of Virginia Astronomy Department. We host a semester-long weekly astronomy club at elementary schools in under-served areas of central Virginia, using activities-based learning to develop a love of science in late elementary aged students. Central to the philosophy of DSBK is the idea that by holding regular meetings over long time scales, students are able to build trust with graduate mentors and deeper familiarity with important scientific concepts. This may increase DSBK's effectiveness compared to outreach groups who meet with pupils only once. DSBK also contributes to Virginia's astronomy education via events open to the public, astronomy field days at local schools, the composition of a children's book on astronomy, and teacher education. DSBK was selected for the 2012 “Programs that Work” award by the Virginia Math and Sciences Coalition, the highest honor for math and science outreach programs in the state of Virginia. I have been an active member since August 2010, contributing to the planning and execution of a number of DSBK efforts.

UVa Observatories
UVa fully owns two local observatories which are regularly opened to the public. Each semester, we open the Fan Mountain Observatory to the public. Graduate students give tours of the 40-inch optical and the 31-inch infrared telescope facilities. We entertain the public with talks about our research or other subjects in astronomy, and showcase other UVa outreach efforts. Typically, we operate at our maximum capacity of ~200 attendees. While this is not a major time committment, it is an excellent opportunity to interact with a very enthusiastic section of the public.

Teaching and outreach history

In the past 4 years, I have run night labs as a TA for the UVa astronomy department, supervised two undergraduate students on summer research in astrochemistry through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), and taught science activities courses for first through sixth grades at an elementary school in Accra, Ghana. For more detail, see my CV or shoot me an email.

Outside of science, I've taught both swimming and diving lessons in private and group settings since I was fifteen. I taught physical education swimming classes for two years at a very unique magnet school in Harlem, Columbia Secondary School. Through this school, I saw experiential learning in action and was engaged in conversations on education reform. The school's educators were among the most dynamic, dedicated, and intelligent people I've met.