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Richard DeCoster

Instructor, The Physics of Stars

Richard DeCoster holds a PhD in Astronomy, and has been a researcher at the University of Iowa, an assistant professor at Lake Forest College and DePaul University, and a physics and astronomy teacher at Niles West High School. He brings this wealth of experience to his contributions to the three-person team teaching The Physics of Stars, but sees his students as potential colleagues. As he puts it: "Astronomy is increasingly a ‘citizen science’ endeavor. Robotic telescopes are producing large databases of observations that are accessible to both professional astronomers and the general public. My hope is that students will become skilled enough through this course that they will be sufficiently excited to continue to engage in observational astronomy and enjoy participation in this endeavor at the ‘citizen science’ or even the professional level.”

The course is designed so that students can experience this hands-on approach: “to me, an exciting aspect of teaching astronomy is that students can be directly involved in acquiring the observations that lead to an understanding of how the physical universe works. In this particular course, the focus is on how stars work. We will use telescopes throughout this course, on campus at Hyde Park, at the University’s Yerkes Observatory and a world-wide network of robotic telescopes [Skynet] controlled via the internet to make original observations. Students will produce their own data and will become knowledgeable on how to analyze these and other data to lead them to an understanding of how stars do what they do.” How stars work matters to DeCoster because “the energy that our society utilizes comes predominantly from our sun. This course involves understanding how our sun and other stars work to produce this energy. How we have come to understand the basics of how this process works, and how current observational work is advancing our understanding of this process, I find to be very exciting.”

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