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Hartnell Astronomy Summer Course Serves as National Model

May 2nd, 2007

Hartnell's astronomy short course, "The Distant Universe," is highlighted in a June 2007 publication of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) as a model for encouraging underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in the sciences.

The six-day intensive course was jointly developed in 2004 by Dr. Anne Metevier, a post-doctoral fellow in astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Adaptive Optics at UC Santa Cruz (CfAO), and Andy Newton, Hartnell's planetarium director, to introduce underrepresented minorities to scientific research early in their academic development.

In the three years that this course has been taught, 47 students have enrolled. Thirty-four percent of those students have since transferred to four-year colleges to pursue science and engineering degrees. Many others are in the process of finishing their Hartnell degrees. Four students have been accepted into the highly competitive CfAO summer internships, where they work alongside students from some of the nationís best four-year institutions.

The course surveys astronomical topics and involves students in hands-on activities, telescopic observations, interactive problem-solving, and the scientific method. Students also learn about astronomy-related career paths.

The AAS article quotes a survey by the National Science Foundation, which found that slightly more than half of all Latino students who earn bachelorís degrees in science and engineering begin their college careers in community colleges, as do 45 percent of Native American students, 44 percent of African American students, 43 percent of white students, and 40 percent of Asian American students. It then highlights the productive collaboration between UC Santa Cruz and Hartnell College, concluding that this model can be an important tool for encouraging underrepresented students to pursue academic and research careers in the sciences.

The course will be taught this year from July 30-August 4. The lead instructor will be Candace Church, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. Dr. Pimol Moth, astronomy and physics instructor at Hartnell, Mr. Newton, and four graduate students from UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley have been involved in the planning for the short course and will assist in the teaching.

The article in AASí Spectrum may be read online at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csma/newsletter/June2007/spectrum_Jun07.pdf The AAS, established in 1899, is the largest organization of professional astronomers in North America.

For more information on Hartnellís astronomy program or to apply for this course, please contact Dr. Pimol Moth, 831-755-6893, or Mr. Andy Newton, 831-755-6803.