AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 19 Focus on Undergraduate Astronomy
Poster, Monday, January 5, 2004, 9:20am-6:30pm, Grand Hall

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[19.07] Undergraduate Research and the Growth of a Department

R. J. Dukes (Coll. Charleston)

According to American Institute of Physics statistics the College of Charleston’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is second among all primarily undergraduate institutions in the production of physics and astronomy bachelor’s degrees. A little over a decade ago the roster faculty of the department consisted of 5 physicists and 2 astronomers. Currently we have 13 filled positions including 6 astronomers and are hiring 3 additional faculty this year.

What has caused this growth? While there are a number of factors, our undergraduate research program is a major one. Although we have required a “senior project” for 30 years about 15 years ago we started encouraging students to present their work at both a college wide research poster session and the annual meeting of the South Carolina Academy of Science. We also began to encourage students to begin research earlier in their careers. At about the same time we received NSF funding to operate an automatic photometric telescope in southern Arizona. This facility greatly increased the opportunities available in astronomy. A decade ago venues for student presentations were expanded to include AAS meetings as well as others.

Undergraduate students, especially beginning ones, require very careful and time-consuming mentoring. In addition to funding from NSF our students have also been funded by the SC Space Grant and by internal funds. Even in the time of drastic budget cuts our president has begun funding 20 competitive summer research appointments for undergraduates as well as providing travel support for attendance at meetings.

In summary, our emphasis on undergraduate research has attracted students and in turn resulted in the administration granting us additional faculty lines. The new faculty hires have been instrumental in attracting even more students.

I would like to express my appreciation to my students and colleagues and to NSF for supporting our automatic telescope for the last 14 years under the following grants: #AST86-16362, #AST91-15114, #AST95-28906, and #AST-0071260.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.cofc.edu/~dukesr/. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: dukesr@cofc.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35#5
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