A Partnership in Observational and Computational Astronomy

Year 1 Summary

Year 1 of the SCSU PAARE project has provided opportunities for research, teaching and mentoring in astronomy at SCSU, a Historically Black College/University located in rural South Carolina with an enrollment of approximately 4,500 students. Over 90% of the student population is African-American.

While the faculty and curriculum were largely in place at SCSU prior to the award, the PAARE project allowed the faculty and students to participate in astronomical activities on a scale not previously possible. Partners, Clemson University and NOAO, have strongly embraced the concept of partnering, providing SCSU with access to people and resources previously unavailable. In turn, SCSU has been given the opportunity to contribute to the research and education activities of the partners.

A total of 5 SCSU students were supported under this award in Year 1. Four of those were underrepresented minorities. Unfortunately, two of the five students left the University for family reasons near the end of the first year of PAARE. All five of the students received research opportunities and mentoring support from the SCSU faculty.

Note that three of the five Year 1 PAARE students received scholarships. The other two had full scholarships through other means, but did receive PAARE stipend funds for their participation during the summer and academic year.

The three students remaining at the beginning of Year 2 will participate in summer 2009 research activities. One will go to NOAO to work with Dr. Howell, one to Clemson to work with Dr. Leising and one will remain in Orangeburg to work with Dr. Walter. An additional 3 new students, all underrepresented minorities, will conduct research under Drs. Cash and Walter at SCSU. Thus, a total of 6 underrepresented minority students will receive research mentoring, stipends, room and board from PAARE in the summer of Year 2.

A total of four SCSU faculty members (Cash, Mayo, Smith, Walter) have received support in Year 1. They have been able to enhance their professional development and skills through travel, training and having funds to upgrade their research and educational resources. Additionally, Cash, Smith and Walter have received summer salaries and release time during the academic year. This has been critical to the success of the project since SCSU is not a research institution and faculty members typically teach four courses per semester for a total of eight courses within the academic year.

The project has also contributed by bringing the excitement and wonder of astronomy to the general public and K-12 communities. As described in the Outreach Activities section, over 3,300 people attended outreach activities under this award in Year 1. This is particularly important given that the state of South Carolina ranks low in science performance in K-12 and low in public scientific awareness.