Teaching Excellence

Distinguished Teaching Award

Tabitha Buehler

Tabitha Buehler Honored with U’s Distinguished Teaching Award

Tabitha Buehler, Associate Lecture Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has been recognized for her significant contributions to teaching by receiving a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Utah. Only five faculty members are honored each year with the award.

Faculty who are selected must meet several criteria, including a consistent record of outstanding teaching performance; implementing innovative and effective teaching methods that demonstrate exceptional abilities to motivate student learning; a concern for students and their wider education and career preparation; and contributions to the educational process outside of the classroom.

Below is a conversation with Professor Buehler about the award, her approach to teaching, and working with students.

Could you discuss your teaching philosophy and approach to working with students? Has your teaching style changed/evolved? 

In the classroom.

In my instruction, I try to promote the idea that intelligence and abilities are not fixed—they can be improved over time with work. For example, a student is not inherently “bad at math.” Instead, there are just some math concepts or skills that the student has not mastered yet. Different students may learn in different ways, but I believe that everyone is capable of growth in all areas of study, even in areas in which they don’t feel naturally competent. I explicitly encourage this kind of thinking in my students. Part of the way I do this is by setting clear expectations and holding students accountable for their learning. I present students with challenges that I expect them to struggle with, but I also give them tools and support to help them through these challenges, highlighting their growth and success so that it is evident to them that they are progressing.

I believe it is within my sphere of influence to create a classroom environment that facilitates growth and learning for all students. I work to create a positive learning experience that includes both effective learning activities and a space in which all students feel comfortable asking questions and admitting confusion. I utilize a lot of active and collaborative learning. One of my goals is for students from all backgrounds and perspectives to have their learning needs addressed, and I strive to make sure materials are presented in a respectful way. I appreciate and carefully consider any input and suggestions for improvement from all students.

I have worked through my experiences as an instructor to identify areas where I can improve and to research and independently inform myself of effective teaching methods. My practice has evolved over time as I test different methods and retain the ones that I find most effective. I try to balance the accountability that my students have for their own learning with the responsibility that I have as a learning facilitator.

What does it mean to you to have received this recognition from the U? 

It’s such an honor to receive this award. It’s humbling since I personally know so many excellent and dedicated instructors at the university.

On the roof of the South Physics building

What do you enjoy about teaching and working with students?

I love participating in another person’s learning experience. It’s so fun for me to witness those moments when someone makes an exciting discovery, gains a deeper understanding, or “finally gets it.” My goal is to facilitate learning in such a way so that every one of my students has the opportunity to experience at least one of these moments.

I really enjoy getting to know my students, and it’s important to me to learn their names. I primarily teach introductory science courses to non-science majors, and in these classes my students often don’t begin a semester believing that the course might apply to their chosen fields or their everyday lives. It’s fun to help them discover how physics is directly applicable in their lives and interests or how it can help them gain proficiencies and tools that are relevant in their fields. It’s my hope that my students carry with them the sense that I care about them and am committed to supporting them in their learning.

You’re also involved in numerous public outreach activities.

I supervise student Teaching Assistants (TAs) who work as science communicators in the South Physics Observatory public outreach group. The group, led by Paul Ricketts, holds free public star parties on Wednesday nights; gives presentations to groups who come to campus; and takes telescopes and presentations off campus to schools, workshops, scout groups, and other community groups. I support the TAs as they practice communication skills and develop content and activities. I also personally give several outreach presentations on physics and astronomy topics at schools, workshops, and community gatherings each year.

Could you discuss your work with CSME?

I am a Faculty Associate with the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME), and I served as a Faculty Fellow in the CSME’s UPSTEM (Utah Pathways to STEM) Initiative in 2018-2019, helping to build inclusive curricula in the College of Science and improved degree pathways for transfer students to the University of Utah from Salt Lake Community College.

I have been heavily involved in the Learning Assistant (LA) program that the CSME has deployed in the College of Science: https://csme.utah.edu/la/

LAs are undergraduates who receive pedagogical training to facilitate active learning and support instructors in building collaborative classroom environments, with the goal of increasing effective learning. I am the LA Coordinator for the Physics and Astronomy Department and have worked to increase the involvement of the department in this program. I reach out to fellow instructors, encouraging them to use LAs in their courses and offer support and resources for them to do so. I have helped to recruit and place LAs in well-matched courses, and I act as a resource for the LAs who are working in the instructional teams in our department. I also teach the pedagogy course (SCI 5050) for the CSME’s program that provides the training for the LAs. In the course, I introduce the LAs to research-based teaching strategies that have been shown to lead to long-term learning. I support them in effectively applying these practices in their various instructional teams throughout the College of Science and also help them to build a foundation for their own lifelong learning.

Where did you receive your education? When did you join the U?

I completed a Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy at Brigham Young University fall 2011, and I began as an Assistant Lecture Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Utah in spring 2012.


by Michele Swaner first published @ physics.utah.edu

Sarmishta Kannan

Sarmishta Kannan

In the entrance of the Eccles Health Sciences Education building.

For Sarmishta Diraviam Kannan, HBS’17, the journey to her “dream school” – the University’s School of Medicine – spanned about 25 years and some 8,780 miles.

Sarmishta was born in Tamil Nadu, India, which is located on the southern tip of the Indian sub-continent. In addition to the long history of the Tamil people, Tamil Nadu is famous for its temples, festivals, and celebration of the arts.

When Sarmishta was just nine years old, her family immigrated to the United States. They settled in Boston where her father worked for GE Healthcare. In 2008, the family moved to Salt Lake City, near the corporate headquarters of GE Healthcare, while her father continued his career with the company.

Sarmishta, who was then 12 years old and in junior high school, was still mastering English as a second language and adjusting to social norms and public education systems in America.

It was a difficult time for Sarmishta, but her “dream” was beginning to form.

Sarmishta graduated from Hillcrest High School, in Midvale, in 2013 with the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.

“The IB diploma is a rigorous program, and I was the only one to take the higher-level courses in all three sciences of physics, chemistry and biology,” says Sarmishta. “It was through the IB program that I found my passion in the sciences, especially biological sciences, and completing the IB program prepared me well for college.”

Sarmishta decided to attend the U as an undergraduate because of the abundance of research opportunities and the Honors degree option in Biology which gave her the chance to perform long-term research that culminated with an Undergraduate Thesis. Plus, it put her in close proximity to the School of Medicine.

The “dream” was clear now and within reach.

“The Honors thesis requires involvement in research that finishes with writing a paper on a particular research project. That experience was valuable to me as I got the opportunity to be involved in a research project from start to finish,” says Sarmishta.

She worked with Dr. Kevin Jones at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to help discover the roles that lysosomes and autophagy play in alveolar soft parts sarcoma, clear cell sarcoma, and synovial sarcoma.

“In the Jones lab, it was fascinating for me to see how researchers used experimental data to understand cancer biology. So, I decided to pursue sarcoma research for my thesis,” says Sarmishta.

“I investigated the hypothesis that Alveolar Soft Parts Sarcoma (ASPS) and Clear Cell Sarcoma (CCS) morphology is attributed to lysosomes and that these cancers up-regulate autophagy genes using autophagy as a survival mechanism,” says Sarmishta.

“I learned to design investigations and troubleshoot various lab protocols to gather data and test the hypothesis. Critically analyzing the data supported the hypothesis that ASPS and CCS contain abundant autophagic lysosomes. However, it raised further questions indicating more research was necessary to better understand autophagy’s role in ASPS and CCS.”

“Writing my thesis taught me to build an evidence-based argument based on my data, critically analyze the work of others, synthesize new ideas for further research, and effectively communicate complex topics,” says Sarmishta.

Her thesis abstract was published in the 2016 University of Utah Undergraduate Research Journal. She also presented her thesis to Utah legislators at the Research on Capitol Hill event in 2017 and at Undergraduate Research Symposiums in 2016 and 2017.

After graduating with an Honors degree in Biology, she continued to work in the Jones lab as a full-time Lab Technician before starting medical school. She worked on various projects including writing a review manuscript on sarcomagenesis, titled Genetic Drivers and Cells of Origin in Sarcomagenesis, which was published in early 2021 in the Journal of Pathology.

She also worked on a project that focused on modeling synovial sarcoma metastasis in mouse models. Sarmishta was listed as a co-author on that paper and was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

In the meantime, Sarmishta applied to the School of Medicine in 2019 and in 2020 and was accepted in 2020.

Finally, her “dream” was realized.

Today, Sarmishta is about halfway through her second year of the MD program at the University’s School of Medicine.

“It has been a very fulfilling experience so far! I am grateful to have the opportunity to follow my passion, learn about the human body, help and support people going through healthcare challenges. I am excited to start my clinical years where I get to rotate through various specialties in the hospital and apply all the knowledge I have been learning to patient care,” says Sarmishta.

In addition to school, she enjoys reading, painting, watching movies and singing.

In fact, Sarmishta is a classically-trained Carnatic singer. Carnatic music is a traditional system of music from India that provides a nearly limitless array of melodic patterns. It emphasizes vocal performance.

“I started singing when I was five and my parents enrolled me in Carnatic music classes in India. I continued my training after moving to the United States,” says Sarmishta.

“I perform publicly at the local Hindu Temple and at Indian festivals. One of my most cherished experiences was performing a Hindu song at the 6th Parliament of World Religions event, that was held in Salt Lake City.”

Sarmishta is scheduled to complete the MD program in 2024.

“A new dream is already forming,” she says.


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Ray Greer

Ray Greer

Peter Trapa, Jill Clements, Ray Greer

When Ray Greer, BS’86, was just 12 years old, his mother, Sandra J. Bromley, moved her young family from Texas to Utah. The year was 1976. Sandra was promptly hired at the University of Utah and enjoyed a successful career as a technical illustrator in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences under the direction of Frank H. Brown.

Ray spent his teenage years in Midvale and attended Hillcrest high school.

“My mother was the single greatest influence in my life,” says Greer. “She taught me the value of hard work and perseverance. She also insisted that college was not optional. It was like going from junior high to high school – you just did it!”

Ray enrolled at the U for Fall semester 1981 and was initially interested in computer science and engineering. However, computer science was highly competitive at the time so available classes were scarce.

“Fortunately, Hugo Rossi, a math professor, convinced me that if I majored in mathematics I could get as much course work in computer science as I wanted. And the rest is history,” says Greer.

After receiving his math degree at the U, Greer went on to earn a Master’s of Science in Information Systems and Telecommunications from Christian Brothers University, a small private college in Memphis.

Honoring a Legacy
In 2000, after retiring from the U, Ray’s mother, Sandra, moved back to Texas for the remaining years of her life. She passed away in 2011. Shortly thereafter, Ray established the Sandra J. Bromley scholarship in the College of Science to honor his mother by providing a way for deserving students to earn a college degree.

“She worked hard to provide for her family, but her greatest regret in life was not attending college herself, hence the vision behind the Bromley scholarship,” says Greer.

“Her requirement was that she would support me as long as I didn’t quit school,” says Greer. “That is why the Bromley scholarship requires continuous attendance.”

The Bromley scholarship is designed to provide financial support to undergraduate students who are declared Science majors and who stay enrolled and make steady progress towards a science degree. The award covers full tuition for up to four years.

Four students currently hold the Bromley scholarship – Noel McAllister, Keegan Benfield, Michaela Fluck, and Dannon Allred. As part of his commitment to student success, Greer visits campus at least once a year to meet and encourage the scholarship recipients.

Dannon Allred, Michaela Fluck, Jill Clements, Ray Greer, Keegan Benfield, Noel McAllister

On the Move
Greer has more than 35 years of experience in logistics and transportation industries. He has held senior management positions for Greatwide Logistics Services, Newgistics, Ryder Logistics and FedEx. He served as president of BNSF Logistics, headquartered near Dallas, Texas, from 2011 to 2018.

“Math allows me to think critically about situations and problems generally. Not just numerically but logically, to find patterns and trends that point to likely outcomes,” says Greer.

In 2018, Ray was named as CEO of Omnitracs, a leading company in onboard technology for the transportation industry. Omnitracs is an international billion-dollar company that provides telematic devices and logistics to support drivers and their organizations to be compliant, safe and efficient.

“Math is universal and most importantly it teaches you discipline and persistence to work a problem until it is solved. That process of critical thinking and problem solving has served me well throughout my entire career,” says Greer.

Greer has high hopes and expectations for today’s college students. His advice: “Connecting with people, not apps and cell phones, will differentiate you from the competition.”


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Teaching Excellence

Early Career Teaching Award

Gail Zasowski Receives Early Career Teaching Award

Gail Zasowski, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, has been awarded an Early Career Teaching Award from the University of Utah. This is considered the highest teaching award for pre-tenured faculty and recognizes significant contributions to teaching at the university through new and innovative methods. The University Teaching Committee evaluates nominees based on a teaching portfolio, a curriculum vitae, letters of support, and student evaluations. This year the committee selected six early-career faculty from across campus for the award, including Zasowski.

“I am honored and grateful to the U for this recognition,” said Zasowski. “The U’s educational mission is being fulfilled every day in so many enthusiastic, impactful, and creative ways, and it’s very exciting (and fun!) for me to be a part of that.”

David Kieda, Dean of the Graduate School, Distinguished Professor of Physics & Astronomy, and Co-Director, Consortium for Dark Sky Studies, nominated Zasowski for the award. Anil Seth, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy, and Tobin Wainer, Research Assistant and Associate Instructor in the department, were among those who wrote letters of support.

Seth described Zasowski’s excellence in teaching and mentoring students, particularly within her research group.

“Gail’s approach to mentoring within her research group is very student focused. She engages her students not just about the science they are doing, but also by encouraging them to develop non-research professional skills from networking to writing. She regularly checks in with students about their career goals and is flexible in her assignment of student projects to accommodate their interests.”

Wainer noted her approach to teaching STEM classes.

“Through my work with Dr. Zasowski, I have come to learn that not only is she a brilliant scientist, but she is a model for how professors should approach teaching STEM classes. What sets Dr. Zasowski apart is her compassion for people in the department, her dedication to being the best professor she can be, and her willingness to expend exuberant effort to help others."

Zasowski, who joined the university in 2017, is an astronomer whose research focuses on understanding how galaxies produce and redistribute the heavy elements that shape the universe and enable life in it. She has taught classes ranging from introductory astronomy up through graduate-level courses on stars and galaxies. She has also mentored a large number of undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers through a variety of research projects that explore these topics.

In addition to her work at the U, she serves as the Scientific Spokesperson for the current generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an international astronomical project to collect and analyze data from stars, galaxies, and black holes throughout the universe. As spokesperson, she works hard to ensure that the functioning of the collaboration is efficient, transparent, and equitable for its more than 800 astronomers and engineers spread across the globe.

Zasowski was named a Cottrell Scholar in 2021 by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, which honors early-career faculty members for the quality and innovation of not only their research programs but also their educational activities and their academic leadership. With the support of that award, she is currently developing a new peer-mentoring program within the Department of Physics & Astronomy, called the PANDA Network. She, other faculty and staff, and a number of undergraduate students are running a pilot program this spring, with the hope of launching the full program for new physics majors later this year.

by Michele Swaner, first published @ physics.utah.edu

Paul Watkins

Paul Watkins

As a boy growing up in Ogden, Utah, Paul Watkins attended summer programs at the U when he was in middle school. He enjoyed the experience and planned on attending the university because of its great reputation, affordability, and the fact that he could ride the express bus from Ogden to Salt Lake City.

When he began his freshman year at the U, Paul found that wanted to learn as much as possible to become a well-educated and well-rounded person. He was interested in so many subjects that it was difficult to declare a major.

At one point, he planned on a triple major in German, history, and philosophy, with an idea of going to graduate school in the humanities and teaching at either the high school or college level. In 1998, he graduated with a degree in German language and literature and a minor in history. He was one class shy of a completing a minor in philosophy, which he sometimes regrets not finishing.

Eventually, practical considerations set in, and Paul realized that he didn’t want to teach and that he needed to make a living. “Fortunately, I was good at math and physics, so this led me to the Electrical Engineering and Math Departments,” he said. He completed bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and electrical engineering in 2003. He completed a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2004. He worked on a Ph.D. in electrical engineering but did not complete the dissertation, opting for a job in industry instead.

Value of a U education

“My education at the U has made a huge difference in my life,” he said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have my career in electrical engineering. My studies in the humanities helped me to become a well-rounded individual, and my studies in the Math Department taught me to think critically. In my career, I have found that I’m constantly learning new things on the job, and I enjoy this. My education at the U gave me a solid foundation, which allows me to learn and understand a lot of technical content that I didn’t learn in a classroom.”

He was fortunate to receive departmental scholarships from the Math Department, which helped him complete his undergraduate degrees. “I’m very grateful to the Math Department. I try to contribute to the department’s Undergraduate Scholarships Fund every year to try to give back and pay it forward,” he said.

In graduate school, he won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He believes that having a math degree, in addition to an electrical engineering degree, played a huge role in receiving a fellowship. He is also grateful to a number of math professors who wrote recommendation letters for him.

Favorite professors at the U

Paul enjoyed his math studies and admired a number of professors in the Math Department, including Davar Khoshnevisan, Lajos Horvath, Alexander Balk, Nicholas Korevaar, Misha Kapovich, and Fletcher Gross, noting that all of them are super smart, experts in their field, and great educators.

His favorite professor was Anne Roberts. “I took multiple statistics classes from her. She took the time to get to know me, gave me very good advice on multiple occasions, and wrote recommendation letters for me. I am very grateful to her,” he said.

Paul is also indebted to Professors Neil Cotter and Behrouz Farhang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Professor Emeritus Gerhard Knapp of the German and Comparative Literature Department for all their help and support.

When he wasn’t working on math or electrical engineering, he spent a lot of time studying in the library and playing chess. He took beginning racquetball and tennis classes and loved them, although he admits he was terrible at both.

Career highlights

His first job out of college was with a startup company, Slicex (short for Salt Lake Integrated Circuit Experts). The company had raised some venture capital and were trying to develop a product, and Paul found that his education at the U, especially his graduate work, had prepared him well. The work was very interesting, but the realities of being a startup also made the job stressful. A few times the company ran out of money. Eventually, the company failed.

Subsequently, he worked for several large companies, including T.D. Williamson, GE Healthcare, Moog Medical, and Cirtec Medical. While these companies proved more stable, they had other challenges. Often, they required significantly more paperwork than actual design work, particularly those companies in the medical field.

“My degrees in engineering and math have both been very helpful, and I’ve used statistics a lot in industry. My humanities degrees have also helped, as communication and writing skills are very important,” he said.

In his current position, he serves as principal engineer at Cirtec Medical, and the job is directly related to the work he was doing in graduate school. Paul works on medical implants for brain/computer interfaces and for neuromodulation, which refers to technology that acts directly upon nerves. Classes he took in graduate school that he never thought would be useful in industry, such as the physics of nuclear medicine and bioelectricity/electrophysiology, have come in handy.

Paul is still learning and his education at the U has benefited his family. “I share a lot of things I learned in college with my daughter,” he said. “We also spend a lot of time on campus, attending all kinds of events, like the Babcock Theatre, the Music Department’s Sundays@7 series, departmental open houses (the geology and chemistry departments put on great events!), the Physics Department’s star parties, and the Faraday Lecture series. These last two events have led directly to two science fair projects for my daughter. We are regular visitors of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU), and Red Butte Garden. We’re also season ticket holders for the women’s gymnastics team. I’d like to give special thanks to Christy Bills, the entomology curator at the NHMU, for mentoring my daughter.”

Advice to students

If Paul could revisit himself as a freshman, he would tell himself to plan better. “Come up with a plan to make it through college, and try to take a manageable number of classes at a time,” he said. “Taking classes because you’re interested in a topic is fine but also have a career path in mind. And remember that internships and industry experiences are extremely important to prepare you for your career and complement your coursework. One important thing is to allocate plenty of time during your senior year for a job search and/or graduate school applications.”

As an undergrad, Paul took a class on Career and Life Planning from the Educational Psychology Department. Students took personality tests and interest surveys and investigated careers that were a good fit. They also interviewed people currently working in those fields. Paul highly recommends that current students take this type of class.

“Critical thinking skills are among the most important things you can get from your college education, and they’ll serve you well for the rest of your life,” he said. “I would highly recommend reading the book How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn.”

Paul believes that engineering or computer science majors should take a lot of math classes, too. “A math degree, in addition to your engineering or computer science degree, will help you in industry and in graduate school,” he said. He remembers that Professor Ken Golden once told a class that when an engineer also has a math degree it’s like they are an engineer on steroids. Paul also recommends obtaining a master’s degree because graduate school gives students a chance to study fun and interesting topics, and the master’s degree will be useful in a career.

When Paul isn’t attending campus events, he spends time birdwatching and volunteering for both HawkWatch International and the Raptor Inventory Nest Survey, both based in Salt Lake City.

by Michele Swaner, first published @math.utah.edu

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An Introduction to Spintronics

Christoph Boehme

Professor Christoph Boehme joined the University of Utah in 2006. His research is focused on the exploration of spin-dependent electronic processes in condensed matter. The goal of his work is to develop sensitive coherent spin motion detection schemes for small spin ensembles that are needed for spintronics, but also quantum information and general-materials spectroscopy applications.

He received the U’s Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award in 2018 for his contributions and scientific breakthroughs in electron spin physics and his leadership in the field of spintronics.


Modern information technology takes advantage of spintronics (or spin transport electronics) to use the minuscule magnetic fields that emanate from the spin of electrons (similar to the way electronics utilizes the electric charge of electrons) to represent information and to develop faster, smaller information-processing devices that can increase memory or processing capabilities that use less energy or that enable any combination of these improvements.

Conventional digital electronics represent binary information (think 1s and 0s) by the presence of an absence of charge, i.e., electrons in conductive materials. In spintronics devices, information is represented in another way—their spin direction (think up or down). Spintronics, in contrast to electronics, doesn’t require moving electrons around when a 1 is changed to a 0, so it requires less energy. Spin is related to magnetism, so spintronics uses the magnetism of electrons to represent information.

Diagram of spintronics measuring techniques

Illustration of a Spintronic device.

If you’ve ever done the old science experiment of turning a nail into a magnet by repeatedly dragging a magnet along its length, then you’ve already dabbled in spintronics. The magnet transfers information to the nail by aligning the spin of its electrons to the magnetization of the magnet. The trick is then transporting, manipulating, i.e., writing information into spins and, most of all, reading spin information out of spin memory, all of which requires devices and materials with finely tuned properties. The approach pursued in the Boehme group is to study the suitability of various carbon-based semiconductor materials for spintronics device applications.


For more than a decade, physicists in the Department of Physics & Astronomy have focused on the exploration of spin-dependent electronic processes in condensed matter. Their research has yielded a number of significant discoveries, and their work continues to advance knowledge and understanding of the field.


Sometimes the most important learning happens by doing. Having an experience in a laboratory-centered, team-based, interdisciplinary environment can give students the skills to succeed as well as access to other opportunities.

Students who participate in the Physics SRI program leave campus with more than a cool college experience; they graduate with the technical expertise to rise to the top of a competitive job market. A physics degree from the U can be a pipeline to Utah’s STEM-based economy. Choosing to participate in the SRI is a great way to forge a path to a rewarding career and an opportunity to enjoy a well-paying job.

The current Department of Physics & Astronomy Spintronics SRI Stream has six undergraduate students under the direction of Dr. Christoph Boehme. Research can be performed for credit, and scholarship opportunities are available.

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Paul Ricketts

Paul Ricketts

Swan Nebula

Blue Snowball Nebula

Orion Nebula

Your Guide to the Nighttime Sky

Astronomy has a special place with many, including the Physics & Astronomy Department! We love helping the community explore the stars and learn more about the universe around them. Paul Ricketts and his team of AstronomUrs gather every Wednesday night at the South Physics Observatory.

Paul has been with the U's Physics & Astronomy Department since 2005, directing the South Physics Building telescopes and other astronomy projects. He also has helped build a new observatory in southern Utah. We asked Paul for his thoughts about his programs and astronomy.

Q: What do you enjoy most about directing your program?

The best things are working with so many people to bring science into the world and seeing the reactions of people in all levels and walks of life.

Q: What is your favorite memory/story of your program(s)?

No single memory stands out—it's more like a collection of experiences that build on and are included in everything I do now. There are too many stories to share just one—to understand the stories, you need to experience some of the work we do.

Q: What is your favorite object to observe?

Once again, there are no singular objects that I enjoy more than others but a few are worth seeing: the Swan Nebula, Whirlpool Galaxy, Orion Nebula, and the Blue Snowball Nebula with the 32” telescope at the Willard Eccles Observatory in southern Utah. The Swan and Orion are the closest views I can imagine experiencing in real life that are similar to what you’d see in detail, without color, to images from the Hubble Telescope.

Q: What's the best way for a student to contact you if they're interested in your programs?

The easiest way is to find me on Wednesday night is at the Star Parties, or email at paul.ricketts@astro.utah.edu.
If you're interested in Star Parties check out the website for the South Physics Observatory.
If you're interested in the AstronomUrs and Outreach, check out their website.

First published @ physics.utah.edu



Lauren Bustamante

Lauren Bustamante


Lauren Bustamante senior academic advisor, joined the Department of Mathematics in August 2021.

What was your previous job before you came to the Math Department?

I joined the U in 2020. Prior to my role here in the Math Department, I worked at the School of Medicine as the pre-medical laboratory science advisor. I have been working in higher education since 2016, and my first role as an academic advisor was in 2018 at Utah Valley University in the School of Arts.

What are your duties in your current position?

I advise all math majors in their academic planning. I am also a Bridge advisor with the U’s Academic Advising Center. This allows me to review general education exceptions for the College of Science undergrads, along with other responsibilities. Last but not least, I am on the curriculum, awards, and convocation committees.

What do you enjoy about working with students?

I enjoy interacting with students and seeing their drive and passion to succeed. I love helping and guiding students through all levels of their educational journey. Every student is unique, and working with each and every one of them presents a different challenge or obstacle to solve. The best part of advising is seeing my students grow and use the skills of self-efficacy—students recognizing that they have the ability to succeed at the tasks they take on. Advising students is more than telling them what classes to take—advising is guiding students to explore their wants, desires, and interests while attending the U. Helping students figure out who they are and what they are capable of brings joy to the work I do.

Hours and/or days when you can meet with students? Where are you located?

I meet with students Monday through Friday virtually at the moment; but, hopefully, one day I can meet with them in person. My hours vary but they are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I’m located in LCB 212.

To get the most from an advising session, how should students prepare for a meeting with you?

I always advise my students to come prepared. When I mean prepared, it’s best if you have some questions ready to ask me or concerns you’d like to talk about. Every meeting is different, but an effective meeting is accomplished when a student has an idea of what they need.

What was your undergraduate degree? Where did you receive it?

I received a master’s degree in academic advising from Kansas State University in 2020. My bachelor’s degree was in psychology from the University of La Verne (in Southern California) in 2015.

- by Michele Swaner, first published at math.utah.edu