Science Education Department
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A Leading Light in Atmospheric Science
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TEMPO Air Pollution Sensor Treks Toward Satellite Integration
Astronomy Educators Awarded $2.8M to Inspire Minority Youth to Pursue STEM Careers
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High Schoolers Discover Four Exoplanets Through Harvard & Smithsonian Mentorship Program
AstroAI is a center that develop artificial intelligence to solve some of the most interesting and challenging problems in astronomy.
DIY Planet Search
Since the 1990s, astronomers have identified and characterized thousands of planets orbiting other stars. The DIY Planet Search is a project of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian that allows members of the general public to get involved in the exoplanet hunt. Participants control telescopes in the CfA’s MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network through their web browsers, using them to locate potential exoplanets without having to travel to remote locations or buy expensive equipment.
The Laboratory for the Study of Exoplanets (ExoLab) is a project designed to give high school students hands-on experience studying planets orbiting other stars. Classroom activities provide students with the opportunity to collect their own exoplanet data using the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network, analyze the observational results they obtain, and create mathematical models to describe planetary motion. The ExoLab program is designed and managed by researchers in the Science Education Department at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Harvard-MIT Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP)
The Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP) at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provides an opportunity for high-school students to work on a year-long independent research project in astrophysics under the guidance of a Harvard or MIT scientist. Students learn what it is actually like to conduct real, cutting-edge research and work closely with scientists from diverse backgrounds.
Misconception-Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART)
Understanding basic scientific concepts is essential for an informed public in a democratic society, but many scientific misconceptions are common. To complicate matters, it’s often difficult for educators to assess conceptual understanding among their students. For that reason, science education researchers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian have developed Misconception-Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART), a suite of assessment instruments for use in the classroom.
Sensing the Dynamic Universe
The Sensing the Dynamic Universe (SDU) project creates sonified videos exploring the multitude of celestial variables such as stars, supernovae, quasars, gamma ray bursts and more. We sonify lightcurves and spectra, making the astrophysics of variables and transients accessible to the general public, with particular attention to accessibility for those with visual and/or neurological differences.
Young people are generally interested in science across demographics, but for many — particularly girls and students of color — that interest doesn’t lead to subsequent engagement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. The Youth Astronomy Network (YouthAstroNet) is a program of the Science Education Department of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian designed to help middle school-aged students identify as people capable of doing real science. Young people participating in YouthAstroNet use the CfA’s MicroObservatory telescopes to obtain real astronomical data, and connect with scientists and educators through a dedicated online community.
Factors Influencing College Success in STEM
The United States sets educational standards for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in elementary and secondary schools, but preparation for college-level STEM classes varies a lot among students entering university. Owing to a host of background factors, many students may struggle in university introductory science courses and end up feeling discouraged from pursuing STEM degrees and careers. The Science Education Department (SED) at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian has conducted several ongoing large-scale empirical studies, collectively titled “Factors Influencing College Success in STEM”. These studies look at measurable factors that predict student performance in introductory university STEM classes.
From the Ground Up
“From the Ground Up!” is a supplemental curriculum for physical science classes in schools. It is developed and maintained by education researchers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, in collaboration with classroom teachers. The curriculum is designed for use with the CfA’s MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network, to give students hands-on experience and apply what they learn in real scientific investigations.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
For a number of years, many universities have offered massive open online courses (MOOCs) in addition to traditional in-person classes. MOOCs are designed for much larger numbers of students than normal online classes and encourage students to enroll from outside the university. However, little research exists on how MOOCs compare with ordinary classes in terms of student experience and performance. One major issue is that large numbers of students who start these courses do not complete them. To better understand the reasons behind the high attrition rates, the Science Education Department (SED) of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian is engaged in two large-scale studies of two MOOCs offered by Harvard University.
Persistence in STEM
The United States consistently has too few science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals to support the present and future American high-tech economy. The Science Education Department (SED) of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian has conducted a set of large studies, collectively named “Persistence in STEM”, to identify the factors affecting students’ interest in science and related fields. Based on survey responses from thousands of students in many colleges and universities across the United States, the “Persistence in STEM” studies investigate both what encourages and discourages potential STEM majors and professionals.
Telescopes and Instruments
MicroObservatory Telescope Network
The MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network is a collection of five computer-controlled telescopes, built specifically for use by public audiences of all ages. These telescopes were designed by the scientists and educators at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, to allow non-professionals interested in astronomy to use small but high-quality instruments for observing the sky. The MicroObservatory telescopes are located at various CfA observatories, including the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona.
Visit the MicroObservatory Telescope Network Website
Visit the MicroObservatory Telescope Network Website
Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO)
Scientists study the atmospheres of many worlds with orbiting spacecraft, but Earth is the only planet where we can measure the effects of life — and of the negative impacts of civilization. When it is launched, NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) observatory will measure air quality in North America from a geostationary satellite, specifically tracking air pollution in unprecedented detail. The scientific instrument development is led by scientists and engineers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center.
Visit the TEMPO Website
Visit the TEMPO Website