Our program is subject to change. Speakers have confirmed their intent to participate; however, scheduling conflicts may arise.
August 19 UT Space Institute Option:
Dr. Jim Spann is a member of the Space Plasma Physics group in the Space Science Department of the Marshall Space Flight Center Science Directorate. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Spann moved to Recife, Brazil at the young age of five where his parents served as career missionaries. He returned to the US and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Math from Ouachita Baptist University and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (1984). He spent two years (1984–1986) as a post-doctoral fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy in Morgantown, West Virginia prior to coming to MSFC in 1986.
The Space Plasma Physics group conducts experimental and theoretical research for NASA’s Offices of Space Science and Space Flight.
Spann primarily been involved with space flight hardware, laboratory experiments and associated science analysis of the data. He is responsible for the Space Science Department Ultraviolet Instrument Laboratory. The primary motivation for his efforts has been to understand the aurora and how it reveals the energetics and configuration of the magnetized region around the Earth called the magnetosphere. Two of his important contributions are work on the Ultraviolet Imager (UVI) of the Polar mission (launched 1996) on IMAGE (launched 2000) related to the Far Ultraviolet Wideband Imaging Camera (WIC).
Dr. Keivan G. Stassun is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University. He earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was a postdoctoral research fellow with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope Program before joining the faculty at Vanderbilt. Professor Stassun’s research on the birth of stars, eclipsing binary stars, exoplanetary systems, and the sun has appeared in the prestigious research journal Nature, has been featured on NPR’s Earth & Sky, and has been published in more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. He also serves as host for Tennessee Explorers, a television show highlighting the work of scientists and engineers to inspire the next generation of scientific explorers. Professor Stassun is a recipient of the prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and a Cottrell Scholar Award for excellence in research and university teaching from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. In 2013, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Stassun is also a national leader in initiatives to increase the number of underrepresented minorities earning doctoral degrees in science and engineering and has served as an expert witness to Congress in its review of approaches for increasing American competitiveness in these fields.
Dr. Billy Teets is the outreach astronomer at Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory. Billy was born and raised in Clarksville, Tennessee. He received his B.S. in 2004 from Austin Peay State University (APSU), with a major in physics, a double minor in math and astronomy. While at Austin Peay, his deep interest in telescopes lead him to build a binocular telescope for the department of physics and astronomy, and to do the original alignment and calibration of the planetary positions for The Robert F. Sears Planetarium of the Sundquist Science Center at APSU.
Dr. Teets earned a Ph.D. in (astro)physics at Vanderbilt University in 2012 with a research focus on the X-ray properties of young, erupting stars. He has worked at Dyer Observatory since 2006, starting as a part-time student helper and becoming the outreach astronomer in 2012. As Dyer Observatory’s outreach astronomer, you can find Billy giving tours around the observatory, operating telescopes at public events, and working with school and adult educational groups.
David Weintraub is a Professor of Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, where he also directs programs in the Communication of Science and Technology and in Scientific Computing. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Physics and Astronomy at Yale in 1980 and his Ph.D. in Geophysics & Space Physics at UCLA in 1989 before he was appointed to the Vanderbilt Astronomy faculty in 1991. In 2011–2012, he served as Chair of the University Faculty Senate and served previously as Chair of the College of Arts & Science Faculty Council. He is an expert in the study of star and planet formation and is the author of three books for popular audiences, including Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It? (2014), and nearly one hundred peer-reviewed papers in professional journals. His book Is Pluto a Planet? was a finalist for the Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science Books and his book How Old is the Universe? received an Honorable Mention Award from the Association of American Publishers. Weintraub has been honored by Vanderbilt University through separate awards for his internationally recognized research, his excellence in teaching, his dedicated advising, his distinguished service in the councils and government of the university, and for his outstanding contributions to undergraduate student-faculty relations. He is the 2015 winner of the Klopsteg Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers, which recognizes the outstanding communication of the excitement of contemporary physics to the general public.