Laying the Foundation for Studying the Stars

UC San Diego Assistant Professor of Physics Dusan KeresUC San Diego Assistant Professor of Physics Dusan Keres (right) visits Clairemont High School’s Astronomy Club to explore how to support astronomy education in the San Diego region.

Keres studies the formation and evolution of galaxies; Clairemont has a working observatory equipped with a professional telescope, the only such school-based operational observatory we know of in California. Keres met in December with the Astronomy Club and with Clairemont math and art teachers to consider how his work could support Clairemont students and peers from other schools in exploring the mysteries of the universe.

The spark for this connection was lit in October 2013 at “Achieve UC,” a UC-sponsored event in which CREATE colleagues brought Chancellor Pradeep Khosla to Clairemont High School (CHS) and Mission Bay High School for discussions of the pathway to UC San Diego. In presentations on UC San Diego projects at Clairemont, a Clairemont student alumnae of UC San Diego Extension’s Academic Connections summer program spoke of his leadership of the Clairemont Astronomy club. He also mentioned the power of attending a Kyoto Lecture on campus from a Nobel Laureate. He then mentioned his wish for UC San Diego outreach: that more UC San Diego astronomers plug in to the astronomy club.

Months later, Professor Dusan Keres approached CREATE for help in designing outreach for a NSF grant. CREATE linked Keres to Clairemont colleagues, math and art teachers Kevin Regardie and Laura Berlin and the CHS Astronomy Club, to begin exploring ways to leverage Keres’ work to increase excitement and awareness about astronomy. Next steps include bringing together regional teachers to discuss incorporating astronomy in the high school physics classroom, and a community star party where community members, UC San Diego faculty, and Clairemont students and their families come together to explore our night sky.

Seeding such collaboration in STEM education between UC San Diego and the education community is the goal of the CREATE STEM Success Initiative (CSSI), an effort to link UC San Diego STEM resources to the education community’s for collective impact on the STEM pipeline. For more on this work, visit our website.

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