About Me

IMG_8481-2I am a Teaching Professor and the Associate Department Head for the Undergraduate Program in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the Penn State University Park campus in State College, PA.

I have a wide variety of interests in teaching, research, and outreach, and have tried to capture many of them here.


  • I teach face-to-face and on-line sections of Astronomy 1:  Astronomical Universe for University Park and World Campus students.  This is a one-semester survey of astronomy that covers all of astronomy in 15 weeks.  I co-authored the “storyline” web version of Astro 1 with my colleagues Jane Charlton, Nahks Tr’Ehnl, Kim Herrmann, and Anand Narayan.  I also teach Astro 5:  The Sky & Planets for University Park students in face-to-face sections, which is our version of the first half of a two-semester survey of astronomy.
  • I created and teach Astronomy 401:  Fundamentals of Planetary Science and Astronomy, which is one of the required capstone courses in the Planetary Science and Astronomy major at Penn State, which began taking students in 2013.
  • I co-created and co-teach, with Julia Plummer, the course Astronomy / Science Education 116:  Introduction to Astronomy for Educators.  This is an astronomy content course taught in a small group setting for pre-service teachers in the PreK – 4 and Middle Level (grades 4 – 8) CEAED major.
  • I authored and teach the required course Astronomy 801:  Planets, Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe for World Campus students enrolled in the on-line Masters of Education in Earth Science program.
  • I co-teach Astronomy 602:  Supervised Experience in College Teaching with my colleague Julia Kregenow.  We both supervise and mentor all of the graduate teaching assistants in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
  • I have previously taught and authored on-line versions of several other introductory astronomy courses and lab sections, including Astronomy 10:  Elementary Astronomy and Astronomy 11:  Elementary Astronomy Laboratory.   Julia Kregenow and I are working with Stephanie and Tim Slater and the CAPER team on a new lab manual for Astronomy 11 that incorporates labs designed with a backwards faded scaffolding approach.  We participate in professional development workshops for faculty interested in adopting these labs in their own astronomy courses.

Teacher Professional Development:

  • I was a co-Principal Investigator for the recently completed National Science Foundation Earth and Space Science Partnership (ESSP) at Penn State.   We worked with a number of school districts across Pennsylvania to improve the quality of instruction and student learning in Earth and Space Science in the middle grades (4 – 9).
  • I am a member and former officer for the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teacher’s Association (PAESTA), and present on astronomy pedagogy at their annual meeting.
  • I have been the Director of the Penn State In-Service Workshops in Astronomy since 2002. In a long-term partnership with the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, we have offered 1 – 3 workshops every summer primarily for middle-school and high-school teachers.  We have received significant funding from NASA’s Chandra and Hubble Education and Public Outreach programs to support teachers to participate in these workshops.  Beginning in 2015, we are working with Central Intermediate Unit #10 to deliver our workshops.




We use Attila Danko’s Clear Sky Chart to help us plan for the observing conditions at the observatory on the roof of Davey Lab. I highly recommend it for predicting observing conditions in the State College area.