First AAS Regional Meeting a Resounding Success!
On Saturday, 3 May 2014, 29 astronomy faculty and 33 postdocs and students from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and West Virginia forsook Kentucky Derby parties and gathered for the first-ever AAS Regional Meeting, generously hosted by the Dept. of Physics & Astronomy at the Univ. of Kentucky. About two-thirds of the faculty were AAS members. Organized by 11 representatives from eight universities in Kentucky, the gathering offered a chance for students to give research presentations and for all to learn about the research and teaching done by their colleagues in neighboring institutions.
Sixteen research presentations and seven posters covered light pollution, exoplanets, the interstellar medium, galactic dynamics and stellar populations, and active galactic nuclei and galaxy evolution, as well as a review of grant opportunities from the Kentucky Space Grant Consortium. A unique aspect of the meeting was institutional reports by the Kentucky institutions, as a start to foster regional ties to enhance inter-university research, teaching, and outreach efforts, for example, for the 21 August 2017 solar eclipse, which will reach maximum totality in Kentucky.
The group voted to form a regional association and is currently in the process of creating a constitution committee. Gordon Emslie, the provost of Western Kentucky University, summed up the meeting by noting that a number of institutions have only one astronomer who supports research and teaching on their campuses by their efforts alone. However, if we could take the sum of the efforts of the astronomers in the region, it would be possible to offer credentials (certificates, minors, and even majors) and research opportunities by coalescing all this talent. Universities in Kentucky have in fact proposed this sort of inter-university effort, which could be applied to astronomy. The attendees have a strong desire to meet again within the next year.
For those interested in further details, the conference program and photos are available on the meeting website. And if you're interested in organizing an AAS Regional Meeting in your locale, see the accompanying article by AAS Executive Officer Kevin Marvel.