AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

Student Scientific Research within Communities-of-Practice (Abstract)

Volume 45 number 2 (2017)

Russell Genet
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
James Armstrong
University of Hawaii, Maui, HI
Philip Blanko
Grossmont College, San Diego, CA
Grady Boyce, Pat Boyce
Boyce Research Initiatives and Education Foundation, San Diego, CA
Mark Brewer
California State University, San Bernardino, CA
Robert Buchheim
Society for Astronomical Sciences, Ontario, CA
Jae Calanog
Miramar College, San Diego, CA
Diana Castaneda
University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Rebecca Chamberlin
The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA
R. Kent Clark
University of Southern Alabama, Mobile, AL
Dwight Collins
Collins Educational Foundation, San Rafael, CA
Dennis Conti
American Association of Variable Star Observers, Annapolis, MD
Sebastien Cormier
Grossmont College, San Diego, CA
Michael FItzgerald
Edith Cowen University, Perth, Australia
Chris Estrada
California State University, Los Angeles, CA
Reed Estrada
Northrop Aviation, Lancaster, CA
Rachel Freed
California State University, Sonoma, CA
Edward Gomez
Los Cumbres Observatory, Santa Barbara, CA
Paul Hardersen
Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ
Richard Harshaw
Brilliant Sky Observatory, Cave Creek, AZ
Jolyon Johnson
Sammamish High School, Belleview, WA
Stella Kafka
American Association of Variable Star Observers, Cambridge, MA
John Kenney
Concordia University, Irvine, CA
Kakkala Monanan
Leeward Community College, Pearl City, Oahu, HI
John Ridgely
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
David Rowe
PlaneWave Instruments, Rancho Dominguez, CA
Mark Silliman
Waipaha High School, Waipaha, Oahu, HI
Irena Stojimirovic
Mesa College, San Diego, CA
Kalee Tock
Stanford Online High School, Palo Alto, CA
Douglas Walker
Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale, AZ


(Abstract only) Social learning theory suggests that students who wish to become scientists will benefit by being active researchers early in their educational careers. As coauthors of published research, they identify themselves as scientists. This provides them with the inspiration, motivation, and staying power that many will need to complete the long educational process. This hypothesis was put to the test over the past decade by a one-semester astronomy research seminar where teams of students managed their own research. Well over a hundred published papers coauthored by high school and undergraduate students at a handful of schools substantiated this hypothesis. However, one could argue that this was a special case. Astronomy, after all, is supported by a large professional-amateur community-of-practice. Furthermore, the specific area of research—double star astrometry—was chosen because the observations could be quickly made, the data reduction and analysis was straight forward, and publication of the research was welcomed by the Journal of Double Star Observations. A recently initiated seminar development and expansion program—supported in part by the National Science Foundation—is testing a more general hypothesis that: (1) the seminar can be successfully adopted by many other schools; (2) research within astronomy can be extended from double star astrometry to time series photometry of variable stars, exoplanet transits, and asteroids; and (3) the seminar model can be extended to a science beyond astronomy: environmental science—specifically atmospheric science. If the more general hypothesis is also supported, seminars that similarly feature published high school and undergraduate student team research could have the potential to significantly improve science education by increasing the percentage of students who complete the education required to become professional scientists.