Tuesday, July 8, 2014

UA Astronomy Prof Chris Impey Receives $1M Grant to Improve Undergrad Science Education

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM

UA News and Tucson Weekly contributor Eric Swedlund shared the news that UA Astronomy Professor Chris Impey was recently named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, an award that comes with $1 million to support undergraduate science education.

Impey is the first HHMI professor from the UA and first astronomer selected:

A total of 15 educators were chosen to receive the five-year grant "to create activities that integrate their research with student learning in ways that enhance undergraduate students' understanding of science," according to the institute.

"Exceptional teachers have a lasting impact on students," said HHMI President Robert Tjian. "These scientists are at the top of their respective fields and they bring the same creativity and rigor to science education that they bring to their research."

Impey, who came to the UA in 1986, is known as a pioneer in the use of instructional technology for teaching science to undergraduate nonscience majors.

"The award is attractive because the Howard Hughes Medical Institute funds people rather than specific ideas. It's a different paradigm than the National Science Foundation or NASA," Impey said.

"With a five-year award, and the kind of latitude that HHMI gives to pursue ideas, it's exciting because there's an opportunity to experiment," he said, noting that other grants come with a narrow scope that doesn't leave room for experimentation.

With the HHMI funding, Impey will design and implement an online course in introductory astronomy, using the learner-centered instruction techniques and innovations he has tested in the classroom.

"The core of the project is to do a standard university undergraduate course for nonscience majors and take it fully into the online arena, while using the best pedagogy," he said. "The heart of the challenge is to include the engagement, interaction and learning necessary to make it a good experience rather than a pale shadow of a face-to-face class."

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