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225th AAS Meeting Event Descriptions

Workshops | Events | Contributions


CAE's Tier I Teaching Excellence 2-Day Workshop

Saturday, 3 January | 8:00 am – 5:30 pm
Sunday, 4 January | 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
$45 Fee

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; Rankin g Tasks; assessment strategies (including homework, grading, and exams). Presented by Gina Brissenden (Center for Astronomy Education (CAE), Steward Observatory, Univ. of Arizona) and Colin Wallace (Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

Software Carpentry Bootcamp

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

Computing is now an integral part of every aspect of science, but most scientists are never taught how to build, use, validate, and share software well. As a result, many spend hours or days doing things badly that could be done well in just a few minutes. The goal of AAS 225 Software Carpentry 2 day “bootcamp” is to change that so that astronomers can spend less time wrestling with software and more time doing useful research. Further, good quality, well tested code means science results are easier to verify, share, and update. More information on the Software Carpentry project can be found.

The AAS 225 Software Carpentry bootcamp consists of short tutorials alternating with hands-on practical exercises and will cover the core software skills needed build, use, validate, and share software in astronomy: Saturday’s tutorials will comprise shell automation, basic python programming, and unit testing; Sunday’s sessions will shift to focus on advanced python, including numerical and astronomy oriented computing, and version control. Registration is for both days. The target audience for the bootcamp consists of graduate students and early career scientists. The Software Carpentry @ AAS 225 Bootcamp will be run by a set of three certified instructors and a team of helpers.

Participants will be required to bring laptops and to install software in advance of the workshop. Some basic familiarity with shell based computing was assumed in setting the bootcamp schedule. See also a FAQ for more information.

AAS Astronomy Ambassadors Workshop

Saturday, 3 January | 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
Sunday, 4 January | 9:00 am- 5:30 pm
No Fee

The AAS Astronomy Ambassadors program is designed to support 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. Participation in the program includes a few hours of pre-workshop online activities to help us get to know your needs; the two-day workshop, for which lunches and up to 2 nights’ lodging will be provided; and certification as an AAS Astronomy Ambassador, once you have logged three successful outreach events. The workshop includes presenters from the American Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the Pacific Science Center. The number of participants is limited, and the application requires consent from your department chair. We invite applications from graduate students, postdocs and new faculty in their first two years after receipt of their PhD, and advanced undergraduates doing research and committed to continuing in astronomy. Early-career astronomers who are interested in doing outreach, but who haven’t done much yet, are encouraged to apply; we will have sessions appropriate for both those who have done some outreach already and those just starting their outreach adventures. We especially encourage applications from members of groups that are presently underrepresented in science. Please complete the online application form by Monday, 20 October 2014.

2015 NSF Postdoctoral Fellows Symposium

Saturday, 3 January | 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Sunday, 4 January | 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
No Fee

This is the annual meeting of the NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellows (AAPF). The NSF AAPF program supports young scientists who carry out an integrated program of independent research and education/public outreach. During this two-day annual symposium, the Fellows gather to give talks on their current research and outreach projects. Several outside speakers are also invited to give keynote talks and participate in discussion panels on a range of topics such as exploring non-traditional outreach methods, addressing the next big problems in astronomy, and exploring alternative careers outside of academia. This meeting provides an opportunity for the current, past, and prospective Fellows to meet and discuss their work with members of the community, learn from each other's experiences, and to foster new collaborations. All members of the astronomical community are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Connecting with the International Year of Light 2015

Sunday, 4 January | 9:00 am- 5:00 pm
$100 Fee

Improving people’s perceptions of science and technology through hands-on experiences are the goals of many UN-sanctioned international years. In 2009, The International Year of Astronomy amazed the world with its programs on astronomy. The International Year of Light (IYL) is in 2015 and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory would like to connect astronomers with two themes from IYA: Dark Skies Awareness and Galileoscopes. These two areas are part of the Cosmic Light cornerstone selected for IYL 2015.

As a Cosmic Light cornerstone project, NOAO is designing and building “Quality Lighting Teaching Kits” to encourage the best use of light for illumination. The U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and its partners, CIE, IDA and SPIE, are developing this program, building on our work in the last ten years on lighting and optics education. Our goal is to increase student and public awareness of quality lighting issues and solutions through tutorial videos, Google+ Hangouts, teaching kits and hands-on activities. The kit materials for the activities will help students identify and reduce wasteful/inefficient lighting, minimizing energy consumption and cost.

The Galileoscope, another Cosmic Light cornerstone project, is a low-cost, high optical quality telescope kit designed for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) in 2009. The Galileoscope gives students the ability to recreate Galileo’s historic observations. The process of assembling the telescope gives students insight into how a telescope works and the principles of optics that a telescopes employs to focus light. NOAO is developing new optics activities to support the use of the Galileoscope during IYL 2015.

Workshop participants will explore the Galileoscope and Quality Lighting kits in new ways and will learn about how these two sets of kits and activities can be incorporated into IYL events at their home institutions. We will also describe some of the other cornerstone projects.

Leadership and Teambuilding for Astronomers

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

In 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.

SciCoder@AAS: Intro to Databases for Astronomers

Sunday, 4 January | 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
$100 Fee

The volume of data available to astronomers today is enormous. The standard pattern of working with flat files doesn't scale to what's available now, let alone with the increasing amount of data that is coming. Every astronomer should have the skills to work with databases both for their own data sets and what is publicly available. This workshop will teach how a database is designed, how to create your own, how to populate it with data, how to query that data, how to work with other databases, and how to write scripts against a database. Exercises and examples will be geared to astronomical data but will be applicable to nearly any data. Participants should have a basic comfort level with Python and will be required to install some software on their laptops before the workshop. The workshop will be presented by Demitri Muna (Ohio State University), creator of the SciCoder workshop, and Alex Hagen (Pennsylvania State University).


Sunday, 4 January | 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
$80 Fee

The fields of astronomy and statistics diverged in the 20th century so that astronomers are often not well informed about the wealth of powerful modern methodologies developed by statisticians. Statistics is needed for: characterizing astronomical images, spectra and lightcurves; inferring properties of underlying populations from limited samples; linking astronomical observations to astrophysical theories; and many other aspects of data and science analysis.

An additional difficulty has been the inaccessibility of software implementing modern statistical methods for most astronomers. Fortunately, a large, integrated and user-friendly public domain software system has emerged in recent years to implement modern methods. R with its >5000 add-on CRAN packages has >100,000 statistical functionalities, extensive graphics, links to other languages, and more. Over 100 recipe books and extensive on-line support provide guidance for the sophisticated R user.

The AAS astrostatistics tutorials are presented by astronomer Eric D. Feigelson and statistician G. Jogesh Babu, authors of the textbook `Modern Statistical Methods for Astronomy with R Applications' that won the PROSE Award for best astronomy book of 2012. Participants should bring laptops with R installed R scripts and astronomical datasets will be provided. Schedule for Sunday January 4:

  • 9:30-10:30 Introduction to astrostatistics (lecture)
  • 10:30-11:30 Fundamentals of statistical inference (lecture)
  • 11:30-12:30 Introduction to R (tutorial)
  • -- Lunch (not provided) --
  • 2:00-3:00 Density estimation or data smoothing (tutorial)
  • 3:00-4:00 Fitting models to data (lecture)
  • 4:00-5:00 Multivariate clustering and classification (tutorial)

Collaborating Online with Github and Other Tools

Sunday, 4 January | 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
$35 Fee

Distributed collaboration is a hallmark of modern international astronomical research. We collaborate on everything from software development to paper and grant writing to sharing new results, plots, and data files. The goal of this workshop to provide new tools and techniques for productive efficient collaboration online.

This workshop will begin with a hands on tutorial of GitHub. This will include reviewing distributed version control systems and learning collaboration workflows using the GitHub system. During the second part of the workshop we will explore an array of other online tools, ranging from cloud storage (DropBox, Google Drive) to collaborative document creation (Google Documents, online LaTeX editors) to feature tracking platforms (Trello, Jira) and much more. We intend to provide concrete workflows and to imbue you with tips and tricks for using these online tools in your research groups.

The target audience for the workshop consists of astronomers at all points in their careers. Presenters will include Arfon Smith, PhD Astronomer turned Zooniverse developer turned Github Science head, Matthew McCullough, a GitHub Trainer, and August Muench (Smithsonian).

Participants will be required to bring laptops and to install software in advance of the workshop. Familiarity with git or other version control systems is not a prerequisite.

AAS/NRAO Science Communication Workshop CANCELLED

Sunday, 4 January | 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
$55 Fee

One of the great things about working in astronomy is that the press and public are keenly interested in what we do. That’s the good news. The bad news is that few of us receive any training, in our education or on the job, in how to communicate effectively with the press and public. Yet funding agencies increasingly expect researchers to reach beyond the scientific community to share discoveries and insights with the wider community. To help fill the gap between expectations and preparation, and to help you avoid panic if a reporter calls, the AAS is partnering with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to present a half-day science-communication workshop. Engaging and interactive, the program will focus on both communication theory – concepts that can help bridge the gap between scientists and public – and real-world resources that scientists can use to be highly effective communicators. Topics will include what makes a science story newsworthy, how press releases are created and distributed, what do to if you think you have a newsworthy result worth publicizing, how to work with the public-information officers at your institution and funding agencies, how to prepare for a press conference, how to describe your research in pithy yet accurate terms, and tips to survive your first on-camera interview. The workshop is open to all AAS members but will be especially valuable to early-career astronomers.

Imposter: Understanding, Discussing, and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Wednesday, 7 January | 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
No Fee

Imagine that every time you went to school or work, these thoughts spiraled around:

  • “Should I be here?”
  • “I didn’t deserve this position, and soon everyone will find out.”
  • “They’ll know I’m incompetent, that I’m only here by luck”
  • “I had to work much harder than my smarter peers; they’ll know I’ve fooled them.
  • “I’ll be exposed as an impostor.”

For many people in astronomy this is a daily reality. Coined as the “Impostor Syndrome” (IS) by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, such debilitating thoughts erode confidence and can cause individuals to attempt less because they doubt their capacity to achieve the same rigor or status as their peers/mentors. This can lead to depression, stagnation, and even leaving the field. Studies have shown that IS is more frequently experienced by women (but is not absent in men) and underrepresented minorities, and may be an underlying driver of underrepresentation in science, one of the primary climate issues identified in the Decadal Survey. IS can be addressed and combated by improving self-awareness and self-management, exploring how IS protects one’s self-worth versus limits one’s achievement, and learning/accepting one’s strengths and successes.

We propose an AAS workshop to do just this. Pre-workshop readings and a short presentation will provide an introduction to IS, while the bulk of the workshop will concentrate on identifying, exploring, and overcoming IS thoughts and behaviors. Attendees will leave with a deeper understanding of IS and effective IS-combating exercises, plus additional resources to share with their mentors/supervisors/peers.

This workshop has been endorsed by the CSWA, CSMA, and WGLE. It is co-organized by Adam Burgasser, Caitlin Casey, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Loic Le Tiran, Kartik Sheth, and Johanna Teske. The title comes from a participant of the MIT Physics' Diversity & Inclusion luncheon.

We propose this as the first in a series of workshops targeting important “wellness of the field” issues, with workshops on mindset, ethics, and sexual harassment planned for subsequent AAS winter meetings.

Hack Day

Thursday, 8 January | 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
No Fee

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.

Sustenance will be provided for hackers via generous sponsorship.

One-on-One Career Consulations

20 minute Session
$20 Fee

One-on-One career consultations with Aaina Levine (Quantum Success Solutions) are available throughout the meeting week.

Meeting Events

Undergraduate Orientation Reception

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

Is Seattle 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

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

Join your colleagues as we kick-off the start of the 225th AAS Meeting in Seattle.  This is a great time to network, socialize, eat, drink and gear up for an exciting week.

Career Networking Reception & Job Fair

Monday, 5 January | 6:00 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 Reception 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 225th Meeting.  Employers will have a special opportunity to setup a table to meet and greet with attendees.

Open Mic Night

Tuesday, 6 January 8:00 pm- 9:00 pm
No Fee

The Inaugural AAS Open Mic Night in DC was a HUGE success - so we are bringing it back for the 225th Meeting in Seattle, WA.  Open Mic Night headlines our talented members allowing them to share their musical and other talents with their friends and colleagues.  We invite all musicians, singers, story tellers, comedians, poets, spoken word enthusiasts or other performers (e.g. jugglers) to participate.  Sign up here to perform, otherwise, come out and support your talented colleagues.

Closing Reception

Thursday, 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.) The first awards were made for the 217th AAS meeting in Seattle, Washington, in January 2011.