Candidate Statement: Travis Rector
Nominated Office: Nominating Committee
Affiliation: University of Alaska Anchorage
PhD institution: University of Colorado (1998)
Areas of scientific interest:
- Astronomy education research
- Cataclysmic variables
- Star formation
- Imagery and data visualization
- Public outreach
AAS positions & dates:
- Astronomy Education Board (2002 – 2004 and 2015 – present)
- Education Task force (present)
- Annie Jump Cannon Prize (2015 – present)
Other relevant positions and experience:
- LSST Education and Public Outreach group
- LSST Community Science Center Working Group
- Service on numerous TACs and proposal review committees for NSF and NASA
The AAS's mission is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Our society's current vision statement and strategic plan outline numerous goals related to this mission statement. Of these goals, these are what I consider to be the three highest priorities that the AAS should focus on improving:
1) Diversity and inclusivity. Our field will advance by ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to participate in astronomy. Like the rest of society, the AAS has considerable work to do to address inequalities in our field, from educational practices to the hiring pipeline.
2) Education and Public Outreach. Our work is for the betterment of society. And in most cases, our funding depends on the public's support. We need to improve the public's understanding of, and attitudes towards, astronomical research.
3) The advancement of science in general, and in particular the science of climate change. With its impacts being felt worldwide, climate change is the most important scientific topic of this century. It is incumbent upon all scientists to raise awareness of it, enhance understanding, and to address misconceptions and misinformation about it. Because of our work in related fields, astronomers are in a particularly good position to do so.
While all of the society's goals are important, I see these three as being the most urgent. If elected to the nominating committee I will focus on finding candidates who see these as priorities as well.