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FY13-14 Board of Directors Nominations

The Nominations Committees of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific have announced that the following individuals have agreed to stand for election to the ASP Board of Directors. Three seats are up for election in 2013.

The current list of candidates (click on a name for more information) for the three seats are, in alphabetical order:

Kelsey Johnson
Asst. Professor
University of Virginia
Adj. Asst. Astronomer

Shawn Laatsch
Planetarium Manager
Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

Alexander Rudolph
Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Cal State Pomona

Thomas Smith
President and CEO
Dark Ridge Observatory

Connie Walker
Associate Scientist

The ASP extends its thanks and good wishes to all of board candidates. The election will commence in mid-May via online balloting, with an email alert plus link to ballot site sent to active ASP members. Hard copy ballots will be mailed to those who request one. To request a paper ballot, email asilva {at} or call 1-800-335-2624 (U.S.) or 415-337-1100 (outside the U.S.). However you vote, all ballots must be submitted/sent to the ASP no later than July 15, 2013.

Kelsey JohnsonKelsey Johnson is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Virginia, adjunct faculty at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the founder and director of the Dark Skies Bright Kids outreach program. She is currently in her fifth year on the International ALMA Science Advisory Committee, for which she is both a former chair and vice-chair. Her research is focused on star formation throughout the universe, and in particular the impact of different physical environments. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 2001, where she held a NASA Graduate Research Fellowship and was awarded the Dorothy Martin Woman Doctoral Student Award, awarded annually to top female graduate student in any discipline. After earning her doctorate, Johnson held a National Science Foundation Fellowship, followed by a Hubble Fellowship. She has received the National Science Foundation CAREER award, a Packard Foundation Fellowship, a Distinguished young investigator FEST award, and an Excellence in Diversity award. The Dark Skies Bright Kids program that she created and directs was named a 2012 “Program That Works” by the Virginia Math and Science Coalition. A new course that Johnson created, entitled “Unsolved Mysteries in the Universe” is among the most popular in the department. In 2013 Johnson won an “All University Teaching Award” from the University of Virginia. She gives numerous public lectures and interviews each year, as well as participating in Space Science for Teachers workshops.

She writes: I am on a mission as a professional astronomer, educator, parent, and community member. American society faces epidemic levels of science illiteracy, yet science and technology have become integral to our daily lives ‒ requiring a solid understanding of science more than ever before. Astronomy serves as a “gateway” science, and through the partnering of educators, amateurs, and professional astronomers we have the power to make real and significant progress. The ASP is an essential organization on this front, and I am honored to be nominated for the ASP Board. If elected my focus would be on nurturing and creating and meaningful partnerships between professional astronomers, amateurs, and educators.

Shawn LaatschShawn Laatsch received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, and his M.S. in Earth and Space Sciences from Mississippi State University. Currently he is pursuing a PhD in Astronomy Education at the University of Wyoming. He is the Planetarium Manager for the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii where he installed the world’s first 3D stereoscopic planetarium. Laatsch has presented several thousand planetarium shows, and numerous lectures on a variety of astronomical topics – including being an invited guest speaker in Moscow, Hamburg, Athens, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. He started his planetarium career at the Wausau West High School Planetarium as a student in 1984. Professionally he began his career as an Astronomy Educator at the Sudekum Planetarium in Nashville, Tennessee. Following this he served as director for the Arthur Storer Planetarium in Maryland and Gheens Science Hall & Rauch Planetarium in Kentucky. Laatsch serves as an Executive Officer (Treasurer and Membership Chair) in the International Planetarium Society, the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. In 1998 he was inducted as an International Planetarium Society Fellow for his work in promoting astronomy education. Laatsch was an invited guest lecturer at the Argo School of Astronomy in Moscow, Russia in 2000. He was selected as a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador in 2004. In 2006 he was asked by NASA SEARCH to be a special presenter on cultural astronomy education at COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) in Beijing, China. In 2008 he received the International Planetarium Society’s highest honor, the Service Award for dedication to the planetarium field. Over the past 29 years he has been actively involved in planetarium management, program development and astronomy education in museum, university, and k-12 settings. He has taught astronomy at the University of Louisville, East Carolina University, and Pitt Community College. Shawn has a passion for cultural and historical astronomy, and sharing the wonders of the universe with people of all ages.

He writes: It is a honor to serve on the Board of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and to see the new directions and initiatives the society is pursuing. It has actively brought together professional and amateur astronomers, educators, and outreach specialist with the goal of increasing public awareness and understanding of astronomy. The ASP dedicated to these ideals and has a strong vision for astronomy education. Since my early years as planetarium professional and astronomy educator, ASP has been a leader in astronomy outreach and it would be an honor to serve a second term on the Board and promote the mission of ASP. If selected, I would enjoy sharing my experiences and enthusiasm to continue this most important work.

Alexander RudolphAlexander Rudolph is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). He received his bachelor’s degree from Haverford College in 1982, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1988. Before joining the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona, he was on the faculty of Harvey Mudd College from 1994-2001. He also spent a year teaching high school science and math. Professor Rudolph has conducted research with over 20 undergraduates on the properties of outflows from forming stars and circumstellar disks around such stars; the dependence of abundance gradients on galactocentric radius in the Milky Way; searches for Brown Dwarfs; and the properties of HII regions in the outer Galaxy. He is Director of an NSF-funded program to promote minority and female involvement in undergraduate research in Astronomy, Planetary Science, and Astrobiology: the California-Arizona Minority Partnership for Astronomy Research and Education (CAMPARE). This program consists of students from 14 community colleges and universities in California participating in summer research with scientists from four world-class research institutions: the University of Arizona Steward Observatory, the SETI Insitute, and JPL/Caltech. Professor Rudolph is also involved in research into the effectiveness of interactive learning strategies in general education astronomy (Astro 101) classes, publishing results of his research in numerous journals including Physics Today. Professor Rudolph has significant K-12 outreach experience, including yearlong partnerships with elementary school teachers (Projects ASTRO, FOSTER); conducting an Astrobiology workshop for elementary school teachers; and promoting interactive learning and the use of clickers at local schools in Pomona, California.

He writes: I have been a member of the ASP for my entire professional career and strongly support its programs. I participated in the first ever project ASTRO cohort as a postdoc at NASA/Ames, and have continued to work with grade school and high school teachers as a faculty member at Harvey Mudd College and Cal Poly Pomona. In addition, as an astronomy education researcher, I have participated in the Cosmos in the Classroom meetings, including serving on the Program Committee twice. As a Board member of the ASP I would work to support and strengthen ASP programs in both K-12 outreach and astronomy education at the undergraduate level, in the latter, focusing particularly in two areas: 1) greater minority and female involvement in astronomy research and education, and 2) dissemination of research on best teaching practices that support the goals of Astro 101 courses: developing critical thinking and science literacy, and shaping students’ attitudes towards science. I would be honored to bring my two decades of experience in K-12 outreach and undergraduate teaching and research to the board of the ASP in support of its mission of promoting astronomy education.

Thomas SmithThomas C. Smith joined the US Navy in 1974 and entered the Enlisted Nuclear Power Program as a Machinist Mate. He served 13 years on two different types of nuclear submarines and taught operational nuclear prototype to students and senior staff instructors, being awarded Master Training Specialist. Leaving the Navy in 1987 as a Chief Machinist Mate he began work at Diablo Canyon Power Plant near San Luis Obispo, California retiring after 20 years having worked 10 years as a Maintenance Foreman and 10 years in the Information Technology Department as a Senior Computer Applications Programmer.

He writes: I have been keen on astronomy since seeing a comet with my father in the mid-60’s from Albuquerque, NM. My love for astronomy was reignited in 1989 following naval service when I joined the Central Coast Astronomical Society (CCAS) in San Luis Obispo, California. I began scientific research of eclipsing binary stars in 2003. I built my first observatory in 2004 and almost immediately began making astronomy observations and presentations to schools, senior’s organizations , the public and the astronomy club along with writing astronomical papers and giving presentations at astronomy conferences such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS). I have been a member of the ASP for a short time, a member of SAS since 2005 and a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) since 2007. I was voted an honorary member of the Texas Astronomical Society (TAS). I have provided guidance to many University, Junior College, and High School students in observing techniques, astronomical software, research equipment fabrication, data reductions and analysis for presentations and publication in such as the Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (JAAVSO), SAS proceedings, Journal of Double Star Observations (JDSO) and others. I am currently working with students and observers from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cuesta College San Luis Obispo, and Maui Community College in neglected double star observations and data reductions. I built, installed and operate the American Association of Variable Star Observers Photometric All-Sky Survey (APASS) systems with Dr. Arne Henden (Director, AAVSO) at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) as well as a duplicate system at my Dark Ridge Observatory in New Mexico. The APASS photometric data has been included in the US Naval Observatory’s UCAC4 catalog. I assisted Chandra X-ray Space Telescope E/PO as an Educational Resource Agent working with Tufts University. As a candidate to serve on the Board of Directors I plan to assist the ASP Officers and committees by contributing my enthusiasm to projects, my drive to see STEM education in this country rejuvenated through student involvement and public outreach. I see the ASP as a perfect vehicle to help make this happen and once again become The Top Nation of thinkers and doers.

Connie WalkerAstronomer Connie Walker specializes in science education and public outreach at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona. She conducts professional development for educators, develops curricula and kits for informal and formal science education programs and convenes conference sessions and workshops on hands-on science and research for students and teachers for several programs.

Connie holds bachelor’s in physics and astronomy from Smith College, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona. Before entering the doctoral program, Connie worked in industry as an antenna systems engineer at TRW Aerospace in Redondo Beach, CA. While in the doctoral program, Connie was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program Fellow and used ground and space-based observations to probe star formation in nearby galaxies. After completing the doctoral program, she was a postdoctoral research fellow for McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas in Austin, studying the molecular content of starburst galaxies at different epochs. She then returned to the University of Arizona as an assistant staff astronomer and lecturer at Steward Observatory. Through her classroom experience she found that the dimensions to teaching and learning were multifaceted and required students to have hands-on, minds-on opportunities for critical thinking. Within a couple of years, Connie was hired by the Education and Public Outreach group at NOAO to work on Project ASTRO and other programs. She directed Project ASTRO and Family ASTRO in Arizona for ~5 years. This led to the development of ASTRO-Chile, which she manages. Under ASTRO-Chile, the dark skies awareness citizen-science program, GLOBE at Night, started as a joint light pollution study between students and teachers in Chile and Spanish-speaking students and teachers in Tucson. GLOBE at Night, which Connie directs, is now a worldwide campaign in its 8th year. GLOBE at Night was a centerpiece of the IYA Dark Skies Awareness (DSA) cornerstone project. Connie chaired both the national and international working groups for the DSA cornerstone project, which were awarded the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Executive Directors Award for their efforts in 2009. In 2011, Connie was awarded the IDA Hoag-Robinson Award for her contribution to educating the public on light pollution, its effect and solutions. She chairs the IDA education committee and is an officer on its Board of Directors as well as an officer on the IAU Commission 50 (on light pollution). Through her EPO activities at NOAO, Connie was also instrumental in the development of 6 optics education modules (kits and guides) called Hands-on-Optics and oversaw the solar research program for the Teacher Leaders in Research-Based Astronomy program. Presently she is having a blast working with students and their teachers in increasing dark sky awareness. For 3 years, she had the pleasure of working on this topic with the Night Sky Network and Astronomy from the Ground Up programs.

She writes: One thing I have appreciated most about ASP is its ability to pinpoint areas of educational outreach that need further definition or support. As a result, programs like My Sky Tonight or Sharing the Universe were created. ASP knows the audiences that need addressing, such as in the programs Night Sky Network and Astronomy from the Ground Up. In addition, ASP has hired some of the best education specialists to create the materials that make these programs so successful. ASP’s mission statement is my mission statement and I look forward to the possibility of continuing to serve on the Board of Directors as a voting member as well as one of its officers. I understand where ASP has been and would very much like to be a part of where it is going.