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227th AAS Meeting Event Descriptions

Workshops | Events | Contributions


CAE’s Tier I Teaching Excellence Workshop (2 Days) 

Sunday, 3 January 2016 | 9:00am-5:30pm
Monday, 4 January 2016 | 8:00am-5:30pm
Fee: $45

Are you a current or future instructor teaching Earth, Astronomy, or Space Science? Would you like your classroom to actively engage your students in discourse about the big ideas of your class; how evidence is used to understand the universe; and the role of science in society? We invite you to come to our CAE Teaching Excellence Workshop. Spend time with your colleagues becoming an effective implementor of active-learning instructional strategies. Learn how to transform your classroom into a vibrant learning environment that will: (1) increase students’ conceptual understandings; (2) improve their abilities to think critically, interpret graphs, and reason about quantitative data; (3) motivate them to actively engage in their learning; and (4) improve their self-efficacy. This Workshop will provide you with the experiences you need to create effective and productive active-learning classroom environments. We will model best practices in implementing many different classroom-tested instructional strategies. But most importantly, you and your workshop colleagues will gain first-hand experience implementing these strategies yourselves. During our many microteaching events, you’ll have the opportunity to role-play the parts of student and instructor. You’ll assess and critique each other’s implementation in real time, as part of a supportive learning community. You’ll have the opportunity to face and conquer your fears of unfamiliar teaching in collaboration with kind and gentle friends and mentors before you try them by yourself in front of your students. Workshop topics will include: creating inclusive classroom environments; strategies to improve retention & diversity of STEM majors & grads; collaborative group learning; interactive lectures, demonstrations, and videos; effective use of writing; Think-Pair-Share (Peer Instruction, Clicker Questions); Lecture- Tutorials; Ranking Tasks; assessment strategies (including homework, grading, and exams). Presented by Edward Prather and Gina Brissenden Center for Astronomy Education (CAE), Steward Observatory, Univ. of Arizona. 

The Performing Art of Science Presentation

Tuesday, 5 January 2016 | 2:00pm-5:00pm
Fee: $50

Scientists are often so deep into their research they might forget to translate their content when speaking to audiences outside of their areas. This workshop offers specific skills from the theater to become a more engaging and memorable speaker, whether at a professional conference, public event, job talk or in the classroom. With a focus on clarifying the message, topics also include connection to audience; body language, gesture and movement; purpose and passion; structure and timing; PowerPoint use; managing stage fright; voice, speech and articulation; and how to include stories and metaphors to illuminate complex or important ideas. The goal is to become more clear, compelling and memorable, getting your research to come to life and your ideas to stick. Nancy Houfek brings over thirty five years of working with performers and public speakers to her consulting and coaching. A stage director, award-winning actor, and nationally recognized theater educator, Nancy presents workshops combining theater, storytelling and leadership techniques for corporations, think tanks, universities, and professional organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada. This session is organized by the AAS Employment Committee. 

Leadership and Team-building for Astronomers

Monday, 4 January 2016  | 9:00am-4:00pm
Fee: $50

The AAS Employment Committee is presenting this interactive, day-long workshop. You will be introduced to techniques that with practice will enhance your skill in effectively leading and managing innovative research teams. These skills will be developed beginning with conceptual study and then applied in structured activities. Specific topics will include: Leadership: Recognize the difference between leadership and management, review the characteristics of an effective leader, and seize opportunities to develop and hone your own leadership skills. Project Management: Apply the basic elements of strategic project management, starting with the creation of a strategic hypothesis, and develop that into a logical framework of measureable goals, purpose and outcomes. Management and Teambuilding: Build and organize higher functioning teams, enhance innovation and motivate people. Conflict Management: Identify the underlying conditions that lead to conflict, and apply techniques to move away from blame to more constructive action. Audience: Postdocs and early-career faculty will find this workshop especially helpful as they begin to build and lead their research groups. Enrollment will be limited to 30 participants. 

Using Python for Astronomical Data Analysis

Monday, 4 January 2016 | 9:00am - 4:30pm
Fee: $35

This workshop will cover the use of Python tools to analyze astronomical data, with the focus primarily on Optical, IR and UV data analysis tools. The primary tools that will be covered are those available in the Astropy library and affiliated packages. The specific tools to be covered will be:

    • Physical units and quantities
    • Basics on accessing data files, both FITS and ascii tables
    • Coordinate utilities
    • Modeling and Fitting
    • Interactive visualization and analysis tools:
    • Glue
    • imexam
    • specview
    • Photometric tools

There will be time spent on hands-on exercises. Instructions on installing the necessary software will be provided before the workshop and help will be available at the workshop for those that experience problems with installations.

The prerequisites are a familiarity with astronomical data analysis. Basic Python experience is highly recommended to be able to participate in the exercises. Those without Python experience will still get much useful information about the capabilities for data analysis in Python. Experience with Python scientific libraries, particularly numpy and matplotlib, is helpful, but not required.

Introduction to Software Carpentry 2 Day Workshop 

Sunday, 3 January 2016 | 9:00am-5:30pm
Monday, 4 January 2016 | 8:00am-5:30pm 
Fee: $100

Computing is now an integral part of every aspect of astronomy and astrophysics, but most scientists are never taught how to build, use, validate, and share software. As a result, many spend hours or days doing things badly that could be done well in just a few minutes. The goal of the Software Carpentry Workshop is to change that. The tools presented at the 2 day workshop will enable astronomers to spend less time wrestling with software and more time doing useful research. Furthermore, good quality, well tested code will make their science results easier to confirm, distribute, and update. The Software Carpentry Workshop at the 227th AAS consists of short tutorials alternating with hands-on practical exercises and will cover the core software skills needed construct, use, verify, and share software in astronomy. Sunday’s tutorials will be comprised of shell automation, basic python programming, and code review. Monday’s sessions will shift to focus on advanced python, including numerical and astronomy oriented computing, and version control with git. The workshop will be run by a set of three certified instructors and a team of helpers. The course is aimed at astronomers at all stages of their education and careers who wish to learn computational tools to increase the reproducibility and efficiency of their work. Participants should have some knowledge of programming (not necessarily Python) and have some familiarity with the shell command line (i.e. navigating directories on the shell command line). Specific knowledge of Python and Git are not required. Registration is for both days. Participants will be required to bring laptops and to install software in advance of the workshop. A group list will be compiled approximately one month prior to the workshop to distribute software requirements and collaborative troubleshooting. Workshop participants are also encouraged to participate in the Hack Day to apply their boot camp skills. More information on the Software Carpentry project can be found at 

Teaching Introductory Astronomy Using Quantitative Reasoning Activities & Research Projects

Sunday, 3 January 2016 | 9:00am-5:30pm
Fee: $35

It has long been recognized that many introductory astronomy students are terrified of courses requiring them to perform what they perceive as being tedious arithmetical calculations. At the same time, few instructional support materials exist across the broader astronomy teaching community to help students overcome their reluctance to engage in mathematical thinking and enjoy success at doing astronomy. This day-long workshop is composed of two independent sessions: From 900am-Noon, college faculty will learn how to use new active learning tutorials to develop and enhance students’ quantitative reasoning skills. These active learning tutorials are purposefully designed to support students’ in learning challenging astronomy concepts by introducing short and highly structured quantitative reasoning intervals where students collaboratively wrestle with how to think of astronomy in novel settings. Then, from 130pm-500pm, participating college faculty will learn how to support students in conducting authentic astronomy research by mining online astronomical databases using activities designed around a backwards-faded scaffolding approach to teaching. In these learning modules, students learn how to ask scientifically fruitful research questions, how to design strategies to obtain astronomical evidence, and how to communicate and defend their results. Participants can choose to attend either or both of these morning and afternoon sessions and learn how easily implement these collaborative learning materials. Presenters include Stephanie Slater from the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research, Julia Kregenow & Chris Palma from Penn State, Tim Slater from the University of Wyoming, and Windsor Morgan from Dickinson College. Classroom-ready materials will be provided to all participants that are ready to be used in the upcoming semester. 

Submitting Successful Proposals to the NSF IUSE Program

Monday, 4 January | 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Fee: $35

This workshop will provide an overview of the National Science Foundation's Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program. We will cover all aspects of its history including the programs that preceded it, their goals, and their evolution over time. A complete description of the present IUSE program and the distinguishing characteristics of grants in today's portfolio will be given. We will then explore the process of proposal review, examples of good and bad reviews, and the benefits of reviewing. The characteristics of a good proposal will be analyzed from looking at several project summaries as well as a full proposal. Guest speakers will detail the strategies that led to their submission of a funded IUSE proposal. All topics will be explored through classroom techniques developed for modern interactive teaching. Participants will leave with numerous resources and guidance essential for submitting their own IUSE proposal.

Hack Day

Friday, 8 January 2016 | 10:00am-5:00pm
No Fee - Co-sponsor: LSST

A day to work intensively on collaborative projects. A wide-variety of projects will be undertaken and will be everything from software development and coding to creative outreach projects. Projects that take advantage of the unique gathering of enthusiasm and expertise at the Winter AAS Meeting are particularly encouraged. Hack ideas and participants will be solicited before and during the meeting. Participants can either lead a project or join a project and should plan on focusing primarily on only one hack. In addition, we ask participants to commit to hacking for the majority of the day. Registration is encouraged to facilitate pre-meeting coordination, but not required. 

Register at 

SciCoder Presents: Developing Larger Software Projects

Monday, 4 January 2016 | 10:00am-6:00pm
Fee: $100

Astronomers typically learn to write software by modifying or creating short scripts. These tend to have specific functionality and don’t lend themselves to reuse – even less so by others. This workshop will focus on taking those skills to the next level: designing and creating larger software projects, an emphasis on code sharing and reuse, unit testing, documentation, and object-oriented design. We will discuss these topics as specifically applied to astronomical data and software. These skills will not only help to reduce the amount of time spent writing code, but dramatically benefit those who inherit software. This workshop will be presented by Demitri Muna, creator of the SciCoder workshop (  

Bayesian Methods in Astronomy: Hands-on Statistics

Monday, 4 January 2016 | 1:00pm-6:00pm
Fee: $75

With applications ranging from cosmological parameter constraints to detection of exoplanets, Bayesian methods are increasingly becoming an essential piece of the modern astronomer's computational tool belt. In this workshop, we will take a hands-on approach to learning the Bayesian approach in an astronomical context, starting with a brief overview of relevant background and moving into practical exercises in modeling increasingly complicated data using Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods. The workshop will consist of a mix of lectures and coding breakouts, focusing specifically on the use of Python tools such as the emcee package. To get the most out of this workshop, participants should be comfortable with Python as a computational tool, and come with their laptops ready to write code and run models. This workshop will be facilitated by Jake VanderPlas (U. Washington) along with two assistant facilitators. Jake VanderPlas is the Director of Research in Physical Sciences at the University of Washington's eScience Institute, an interdisciplinary program designed to support data-driven discovery in a wide range of scientific fields. His own research is in astronomy, astrostatistics, machine learning, and scalable computation. He is an active developer of open science tools in Python. He co-authored the book Statistics, Data Mining, and Machine Learning in Astronomy, and often leads courses and workshops on these topics. 

Astrostatistics and R

Monday, 4 January 2016 | 9:00am-6:00pm 
Fee: $75

Statistics is needed for: understanding astronomical images, spectra and light curves; inference about underlying populations from limited samples; linking astronomical observations to astrophysical theories; and more. Fortunately, a range of concepts and methods can be learned from statistical fields like nonparametrics, density estimation, regression, data mining, spatial analysis and time series analysis. A vast range of modern methods have been implemented in R, a large and coherent public domain statistical software system. With its >5000 add-on CRAN packages, R has ~150,000 statistical functionalities with extensive graphics, links to Python and other languages, and more. 

The workshop starts with a broad-scope view of statistics in science; proceeds with integrated lectures and hands-on software exercises in several areas of modern statistics; and ends with a discussion on improving statistical education for young astronomers. Participants should bring a laptop with R installed; downloads are available for MacOS, Linux and Windows at CRAN packages and astronomical datasets are downloaded on-the-fly during the tutorials. R scripts and astronomical datasets will be available at

This workshop will be facilitated by Eric D. Feigelson (Penn State University) and two assistants. 

Careers 101: Career Planning Workshop and Panel for Graduate Students and Postdocs

Tuesday, 5 January 2016 | 9:30am-11:30am 

This FREE workshop and panel discussion will center on the current and expanding crisis in the job and career market for astronomers. Specifically targeted towards graduate students and Postdocs, this workshop will identify and investigate the shortage of traditional astronomy jobs, and how early-career scientists can best prepare for this challenge. Our focus will be on career planning for traditional astronomy positions. We will demonstrate how to orchestrate a personal career plan and develop a Plan B and Plan C for contingencies. We will discuss what early-career astronomers should do now to enhance their CVs and research reputations, and what they should look for in and how they can leverage a Postdoc appointment to set themselves up for success in the field. We will also discuss non-traditional jobs and career paths in astronomy, and introduce the skills that are needed to pursue these. Q and A between panelists and workshop participants will be highly encouraged. 

Career Hour 1: Leveraging Social Media for Networking and Career Advancement

Tuesday, 5 January 2016 | 5:30pm-6:30pm 

More and more recruiters, job decision-makers and hiring managers are using the web to find and research potential candidates. How can you make sure that you are not only found, but are ahead of the pack? In this session, we will discuss how decision-makers use LinkedIn and Facebook, and how you can use LinkedIn to establish yourself as a leader in your field, enhance your research reputation, and seek out and take advantage of innovative opportunities. We will demonstrate how to optimize your presence on Twitter, and create a winning LinkedIn profile, and how to use its multitude of features (such as joining and commenting in groups) to generate solid leads for your career. 

Career Hour 2: Developing Your 30-Second Value Statement (aka Your Elevator Speech)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016 | 12:30pm-1:30pm 

I have a brand and you have a brand. A brand is simply a promise of value and every successful professional and company is successful in part because they know how to articulate their brand. The ability to communicate your promise of value is vitally important for not only crafting your own career path, but also for finding out about hidden opportunities and jobs. In this workshop, we will learn the fundamentals of branding as it relates to career development and planning strategy. We will work together to develop you own 30-second brand statement which you can use in networking, and informational and job interviews. We will discuss the connection between brand, attitude, and reputation, and why every interaction with someone affects how people perceive your brand. You will leave this workshop with the ability to elucidate your own brand to whomever you meet, giving you a critical competitive edge in your career and the job market. 

Career Hour 3: Interviewing: What You Need to Do Before, During, and After to Get the Job

Thursday, 7 January 2016 | 12:30pm-1:30pm 

Find out what you need to know and do to get the job from the first moment of contact to the moment you leave the interview. 

One-on-One Career Consultations (20 minute session)

Alaina Levine of Quantum Success Solutions, a career consultant, science writer, professional speaker, and comedian, will meet individually with attendees to provide confidential, customized career advice for people from student through mid-career. Attendees are encouraged to bring CV/resume, cover letter, or any other item you wish to have evaluated. 

2016 AAS Astronomy Ambassador Workshop (2 Days)

Sunday, 3 January 2016 | 9:00am-5:00pm 
Monday, 4 January 2016 | 8:30am-5:00pm 

The Astronomy Ambassadors program supports early-career AAS members with training in resources and techniques for effective outreach to K-12 students, families, and the public. Workshop participants will learn to communicate more effectively with public and school audiences; find outreach opportunities and establish ongoing partnerships with local schools, museums, parks, and/or community centers; reach audiences with personal stories, hands-on activities, and jargon-free language; identify strategies and techniques to improve their presentation skills; gain access to a menu of outreach resources that work in a variety of settings; and become part of an active community of astronomers who do outreach.

More information:

Application form:

Meeting Events

Undergraduate Orientation Reception

Monday, 4 January | 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
No Fee

Is Kissimmee your first AAS Meeting? Are you looking for a Graduate or Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program? Are you overwhelmed by the AAS Meeting? Or are you looking to connect with other students and faculty? Then the Undergraduate Orientation Reception is for you! When you register, make sure to sign up for this fun and informative event. 

Opening Reception

Monday, 4 January | 7:00pm - 9:00 pm
No Fee

Join your colleagues as we kick-off the start of the 227th AAS Meeting in Kissimmee. This is a great time to network, socialize, eat, drink and gear up for an exciting week. 

Career Networking & Job Fair

Tuesday, 5 January | 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
No Fee

Are you in the market for a career in astronomy? Thinking of making a change? Would you like to mentor an early career astronomer? Will your company be hiring in the near future? Then the Career Networking and Job Fair is the place to be. Network with employers and potential employees. Learn about the many career services offered by the AAS, especially those offered onsite at the 227th Meeting. Employers will have a special opportunity to setup a table to meet and greet with attendees. 

Closing Reception

Friday, 8 January 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
No Fee

Join us one last time to say farewell to your colleagues until the next time you meet at an AAS Meeting. Food, fun and door prizes! 


Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize Fund

Contribute $25 to the Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize Fund

The Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize—established through the support of his father, John Doxsey, and other friends, family, and colleagues—provides graduate students or postdocs within one year of receiving or receipt of their PhD a monetary prize to enable the oral presentation of their dissertation research at a winter meeting of the AAS. (Because nearly all dissertation talks are given at winter meetings and hardly any at summer meetings, the Doxsey Prize is awarded only for winter meetings.)