SC State awarded $2 Million from NSF to enhance Astronomy Program

Tuesday, April 15, 2008



South Carolina State University has received a five-year award from the National Science Foundation worth more than two million dollars ($2,096,841) to expand its astronomy program. The University is one of only four schools nationally to win the award designed to enhance minority participation in astronomy and astrophysics. The SC State program entitled “A Partnership in Observational and Computational Astronomy (POCA)” includes funds for faculty research, undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, planetarium programs and web-based activities.

The SC State team includes: Dr. Donald Walter, principal investigator, Dr. Jennifer Cash, Dr. Elizabeth Mayo and Dr. Daniel Smith, in partnership with scientists at Clemson University and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Ariz.

Over the next five years, high school students will be recruited to attend SC State to major in physics with an interest in astronomy. The program will develop a strong mentorship program which will support student involvement in astronomy throughout the year. Scholarships will be available for their undergraduate education followed by fellowships to attend the graduate program in astronomy at Clemson. Students will have the opportunity to intern at Clemson as well as in Arizona and South America. Faculty members will conduct astrophysical research and major education and outreach activities on SC State’s campus through the web and at the campus Planetarium.

SC State is one of only a few minority institutions in the Nation with an astronomy option for its physics majors. The University is also part of a consortium that manages a 50-inch telescope in Arizona at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Faculty and students control the telescope remotely over the Internet from their computers in Orangeburg, S.C. as it collects pictures of nearby stars and distant galaxies. “While the University has been involved with astronomy for more than a decade, it will now be able expand its program both locally and nationally,” stated Dr. Walter.