campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “astronomy”

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology (visited 2/10/14)

FIT signFlorida Tech did a great job in showcasing the things that make them who they are, mainly their sciences and their engineering (the 2 schools that enroll 70% of their students). They combine the best of liberal arts with a technical research school: “We do science-based science here!”

FIT 5This is one of the best-kept secrets in physics and space sciences including Astrobiology, Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Planetary Science. “It’s pretty weird hanging out in Buzz Aldren’s house talking about life on Mars,” said a professor.

FIT historyFounded in 1958 by the same people who founded NASA, Florida Tech has kept a close working relationship with them: “If we need help, we have all their resources at our disposal and vice versa. If you have students who want to work for NASA, this is the school.” You can literally walk outside and watch launches. “Drive 45 minutes and you can FEEL the launch,” said a professor.

FIT telescope 2

One of the school’s telescopes

Students and faculty have access to all sorts of amazing telescopes such as the 10.4-meter telescope in the Canary Islands, the Hubble, and they’re helping with James Webb telescope that will launch in 2018. They’re even looking to launch their own space telescope. They work with a ground-based, 1-m telescope network around the world in places like Tucson, Chile, and the Canary Islands. They can log on and use them through the internet “which saves a lot on time and money.” To really study the universe, people need dry, high, and dark conditions; “Florida is wet, low, and near Disney World.”

The telescope on campus is used for ground-based tracking, training purposes, and LEO (Low Earth Orbit). It can laser 10Gigabits per second and can correct for atmosphere “twinkle.” They get a 2-minute warning for satellites that will be crossing its path so they can get it shut off, and they work with the FAA to make sure nothing they do interferes with aircraft.

FIT rooftop classroom

The Rooftop Classroom with attachments for telescopes

All the astro-sciences work closely with the meteorology and aviation meteorology departments. The strip between Melbourne and Tampa is the mostly heavily lightening-hit area in the country. “We’re a rocket school. We build rockets. We launch a rocket into a storm cloud to trigger the lightning and ‘sprites’ so we can take pictures.” They also study space weather.

Another cool thing is that they can use the International Space Station as a lab. They propose research and have it done all the time such as work on Amyloid fiber growth in weightlessness compared to the ground. They have an experimental camera that will soon be attached to the outside of the ISS and remain there for 6 months. Research here can range from the smallest fundamental particles to the large-scale galaxy.

FIT student projects

Student projects in the Engineering Department

There are 14 engineering majors including Ocean Engo. Students who are undecided can start in General Engineering and take an Intro to Engineering class where they can learn a bit about all areas, including research, job opportunities, and other things. The first year for all Engineering programs are almost identical: math, physics, a couple electives, an intro to Engineering class, etc. Kids who do well here tend to have taken Calculus in high school, “even if it’s a C, they’ve at least been exposed to it.” Being behind in math will hold up the whole process. However, they work hard to keep students on track and provide as many opportunities as possibly, including study abroad options.

FIT engo bldg

The Maker-Space building

They have a huge new “maker-space” where engineering students can work in groups on whatever project they have going. Some classes are held there, but mostly it’s open and available for students to build whatever models or projects they need. One of the interesting things they’ve done recently is making a solar-powered auto-drive luggage delivery system for the Melbourne airport.

The gender imbalance is still seen throughout most of the engineering department with only Biomed being even at 50/50; Chemical is close at about 60/40. Mechanical has the most skewed ratio with the percentage of females in the teens.

FIT marine specimins

Specimens in the Marine Bio lab

Biological Sciences are strong as evidenced in the 75-80% medical school admission rate. (students have the option of majoring in PreMedical Chemistry or Medical Biology but do not need to in order to apply to med school). Marine science, Aquaculture, and Conservation Biology are all heavy hitters and are hands-on, experiential education. “We’re interested in being great teachers and researchers.” They have sea tanks, mollusks, dark rooms, sea horses. “Think of them when you look at the ooky stuff.” They keep samples in all sorts of jars, including a Party Mix jar (the roly-poly they had on display next to a baby King Crab). They’re doing work on the Lion Fish, an invasive, dangerous species that spread during a hurricane. They want to know how they manage to adapt and thrive from NJ to the Caribbean.

FIT acad quad 1

Part of the Science Quad with a marsh in the middle

People tend to forget about the Computer Sciences here, including data mining, software engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Info Systems, mining as well as Cyber-security and Homeland Security. They’ve been named a Center for Excellence, one of only 8 in the country.

About 40% of students go onto grad school; many stay at there to do it. The Fast Track Master’s Programs allows students to get a BS and Master’s in 5 years rather than 6. Students need a 3.4 GPA at 90 credits (mid Junior Year). If accepted, they can start their graduate work by taking 6 credits in their senior year that will count for both undergrad and graduate degrees.

FIT mascot and pool

A mascot statue by the campus pool

Things students particularly like about Florida Tech are:

  • There are a ton of social activities, so there are lots of leadership opportunities. It’s a great campus for ambitious students.
  • You can get right into the major.
  • There are lots of international students.

Thing they would like to change are improve would be a football stadium, more land to grow the university, and more outdoor seating to study.

FIT dorms

Some of the dorms

Campus is not that large, but they do have trolleys that will take kids around campus. There are plenty of housing options including new dorms with suites and two off-campus buildings “which are nice, but people in traditional halls made better friendships,” said one student. Greek housing is located at “Panther Bay;” 13% of the population goes Greek. The dining hall is “great! It’s on a 6-week rotation so you won’t see the same foods for at least 6 weeks. They’ve worked with international students on getting recipes so there’s a lot of international food, too,” said one of our tour guides. The campus is largely residential, surprisingly, the population is almost evenly split with about 1/3 of the students coming from Florida, out-of-state, and international countries with 120 countries represented. Racial and religious diversity is evident as we walked around, including seeing women in hijab and a Burqa.

FIT 747 students are enrolled in the campus Army ROTC program; Florida Tech ranks 2nd highest in the country for 2nd Lieutenants upon graduation. ROTC pays for tuition and fees; RIT kicks in the R&B. Students can get a degree in Interdisciplinary Science: Military Science or Communications: Military Science if they’d like.

© 2016

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach)

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach campus (visited 2/11/16)

ERAU 3

One of the academic buildings; the telescope sits right in the middle

This campus is sleek and modern with new buildings going up. The new student center (fall 2017) will have a rooftop area to watch launches and new dorms are being built with the first students moving in the fall of 2016. Even the welcome center is impressive: it feels like an Omni theater. It’s also a walkable campus; “I can get from the furthest dorms to the academic center in about 15 minutes without rushing,” said our tour guide.

ERAU airplane sculpture 4Students here have a common passion. They don’t just wake up one day and decide to do aeronautics. The tour guide said, “I can always tell who will do well here. I watch them when airplanes take off and land. If they stop to watch, they’ll fit in. Those who don’t should probably go somewhere else.” The admissions rep said, “These are kids who sit at airports and drool or stare at the sky night after night. They want to come here because they have a passion. We want to work with them.”

ERAU airport

The airport is adjacent to campus

Students can earn 1 or all 4 flight ratings while they’re here: Private, commercial, instrumental, and multi-engine. Students need a 1st or 2nd class medical clearance before they even get to school; the reps suggest getting the 1st class if they’re thinking about commercial airlines so they already know they qualify. Flight costs are on a pay-as-you-go basis above and beyond tuition, room, and board costs. For the first and second year, it averages $23,000/yr. For the third year it drops to about $15,000. Students can become Flight Instructors in the 4th year. In terms of scholarship money, if tuition isn’t covered, scholarships won’t go towards flight costs, but if students come in with enough money above and beyond tuition costs, it can help cover flight costs.

ERAU flight check

The Pre-Flight check area

Academics are strong and employers snatch up Embry-Riddle graduates, often with higher starting salaries than those coming from other schools. A faculty member said, “My students are my reputation. When I send them out, they represent me.” Students are challenged here and can apply to the Honors Program, but can also take advantage of individual tutoring labs for a variety of subjects if needed.

ERAU flight complexThere are a range of majors within 4 colleges at ERAU:

  • Aviation:
    • Aeronautics and Aeronautical Science: ERAU is #1 in aerospace (beating out the Air Force), and have even provided the Air Force with more pilots than the AFA.
    • Air Traffic Management
    • Aviation Maintenance and Aerospace & Occupational Safety
    • Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science
    • Meteorology
    • Operational Meteorology: Walmart and Home Depot have meteorologists working for them. Where do you draw the “We’re not sending snow blowers or hurricane panels” line? They understand business and weather.
  • ERAU acad bldg 3Business: This only offers 2 majors in Aviation Business and Business Administration
  • Engineering offers what they consider to be Technical Degrees. The average SAT 1390, ACT 32 (compared to 1100 SAT or 27 ACT for non-tech degrees). They would like calc and physics. However, the bare minimum is pre-calc and trig.
  • Arts & Sciences. The base of the telescope is set up in this A&S building; the building is designed to not touch the supports in case of a natural disaster or other problem with the architecture so it won’t damage the telescope.
    • Space Physics, Engineering Physics, Astronomy & Astrophysics
    • Homeland Security and Global Conflict Studies
      • “The learn how to hack into computers …”
      • They offer multiple travel trips every year to places such as Israel, Bosnia, Ireland, and Germany.
    • Computational Mathematics
    • Human Factor Psychology
ERAU propulsion lab

Propulsion lab

In addition, they offer lots of minors including Terrorism Studies, Avionics Line Maintenance, Aviation Law, Flight Test and Simulation, Forensic Accounting, Occupational Safety.

ERAU oxygen lab

Normobaric “Hypoxia” lab

Students start their major curriculum immediately. Labs are amazing with resources most schools only dream about. They have labs for everything including Visualization and Interactive 3D, Cybersecurity Engineering, Experimental Rocket Propulsion, and Destructive and Non-Destructive labs. The Destruction labs have microphones that listen for stress and can stop experiments before breakage occurs. The Spatial Disorientation Lab gets pilots to trust instruments when their senses are telling them something different from the instruments. The High Altitude Normobaric Lab is called the “Hypoxia Lab”: they change the oxygen levels and have students try to perform different tasks like picking up pencils, organizing things by color, and trading things with neighbors. “Everyone becomes like a two-year old.” This is the only university with this type of lab.

ERAU simulator 2

Flight Simulator

Aviation students spend about 20 hours in a CRJ-200 Simulator for their senior capstone. There are also 8 Cesna Simulators and 2 multi-jet simulators. Most students log about 250 hours by graduation; many have more. Our tour guide had logged 350 and is going to continue on as a flight instructor to get up to his 1000 hours required by the commercial airlines. Students who come in already with their private pilot license get 6 credit hours on their transcripts.

Many students take part in ROTC, and ERAU is ranked as one of the top programs in the country. All 3 branches are available here (and Navy has a Marine option), and we saw a lot of students walking around in uniform.

ERAU 5The gender ratio at ER has gotten much better in recent year. “When I started in 2005, it was 17 guys to every female,” said an admission rep who graduated several years ago. “Now it’s about 4.5 to 1.” All females get a $5000 “Women of Excellence” scholarship. They also have all-female Baja and other competition teams. The student at our lunch table said that these are fun and challenging. When they build things, they have to accommodate all the members: “I’m 5’10” – if they pick me to strap in and then get myself out in 5 seconds, it’s a very different thing than for our team member who is 5’1”. We have to plan for that.”

ERAU 7This is a highly residential campus. First-year students must live on campus, mostly in traditional style dorms. Upperclassmen have access to suite- and apartment-style dorms. They are redoing dorms in phases; one of the new sections will be done in the spring and they’ll start moving people over so they can start the next phase. Campus activities are plentiful (the free Thursday night movies got a couple mentions). Athletics are transitioning to NCAA DII. The dining hall is good; students get a certain number of swipes per week that do not roll over, “but we can cash out our unused swipes for food at the market.”

Daytona Beach is located in tropical, coastal Central Florida providing for excellent flight conditions. They’re close to Orlando, Jacksonville, and Cape Canaveral. Not only does that provide lots of opportunities for co-ops (very big here) and other internships, it gives students lots to do.

ERAU doesn’t take the Common App – but they are test optional. Students can still get scholarships without the score, but in order to get the maximum amount, they should turn them in. They ask for at least 2 letters of recommendation but will take more. “Think of it as an interview” said the rep. “It gives us a way to get to know the student.” International Students do not need a TOEFL if they’ve spent 2 years at an English-speaking school and their grades are good. Otherwise, they need at least a 79 on the exam. Also, if they want merit-scholarships, they do need to submit the SAT or ACT. Serious cross-apps usually also apply to places like MIT, Georgia Tech, Florida Tech, and the Service Academies.

© 2016

Texas Christian University

Texas Christian University (visited 3/3/15)

~TCU main sign~TCU flowersOne of the big question a lot of us on the Counselor tour had was, how Christian is TCU? The general consensus was: as much as you want it to be. The school is insistent that students figure it out for themselves and be respectful of others. “We have really interesting conversations about God,” said one of the tour guides. Students are required to complete 1 theology class as part of their distribution requirements, but the choices range from Religion in the Arts to The Afterlife in Roman/Greek Traditions (taught by a German professor). One student on the panel wishes that the university were more Christian. “It’s in the name; no one is hiding that it’s part of who we are, but there’s 1 cross on campus. I’ve actively looked.”

~TCU main quad~TCU fountainThe campus is attractive with nice architecture and wonderful landscaping; daffodils were already popping up in early March, despite the chilly weather and dreary skies. Many of the buildings are made of yellow brick, and they’re making an effort to keep consistent to the general feeling as new construction goes up. The campus is located in Fort Worth, a city described by a student as a “booming suburbia.” It has a definite residential, family feel; students and younger professionals tend to like living here. “Dallas feels more business-like than here,” said one professors. Students can take easy advantage of the city with free bus rides with their TCU ID; they also have access to bike shares. However, there’s lots to do directly off campus, as well. Students get discounts at many places in town including free lunches at some places on Fridays. 35 places off-campus will take Flex Bucks.

~TCU dorm hallway

A dorm hallway

TCU has a two-year residency requirement but currently can’t meet demand for juniors and seniors. However, they’re committed to rectifying that and are building a new res hall per year for a decade; 4 new ones are up already. Students are happy that they’re working on the residential issues.

~TCU plaza 2Greek life is a huge part of campus life with almost half of students affiliating (it’s a higher percentage of women than men affiliating – about 55% and 40% respectively – which almost matches up with the general gender mix on campus). One student wishes that she knew how much Greek life was part of campus before she came here. She said that sometimes it feels like much more than half of the students belong to one of the Greek organizations. There is a bit of Greek housing, but many end up living together in regular dorms.

~TCU studentsStudents love the academics here, but “you need to want to learn. They can facilitate the learning, but can’t do it for you.” Favorite classes include:

  • Literature and Civilization: they spoke with a woman from Rwanda
  • Speech Pathology (she’s had her own clients for 2 years now).

~TCU main bldgAs with any university, there are a number of colleges to choose from including:

  • Business
  • Liberal Arts (notable programs: Geography, Criminal Justice, and Hispanic Studies). Students wanting to take classes in Aerospace Studies or Military Science can do so through the Air Force or Army ROTC (respectively).
  • Communications including Communication Studies, Film-TV-Digital Media, and Journalism.
  • Fine Arts: Art, Dance, Music, Theater, Interior Design and Merchandising, and Arts Administration
  • Education
  • Science and Engineering including Physics and Astronomy, Engineering, Computer Science, and the School of Geology, Energy, and the Environment.
  • TCU Honors volleyball

    Sand Volleyball Court

    The Honors College provides small classes and specialized housing (complete with a sand volleyball court!). Honors students have the opportunity to attend a special orientation and have access to Honors Study Abroad trips.~TCU mascot

~TCU mascot statue

Football stadium

Football stadium

Sports are a big deal here. Super Frog the Horned Frog is the beloved mascot (and listed in the top-10 weirdest mascots!); students rub the nose of the Horned Frog statue for luck before exams, and the university even owns a real horned frog. It’s housed at the FW Zoo because it’s an endangered species. TCU’s teams are DI; in addition to the common teams, there are women’s Equestrian and Rifle teams, and men’s DIA football. TCU ranks #1 in the country for attendance at women’s soccer and men’s baseball games. Their big rival is Baylor. Intramurals and club sports are a big part of life on campus, as well. They offer bowling, ice hockey, gymnastics, rugby, and water polo in addition to many other sports. There’s even an outdoor pool with kayaks and canoes available for students.

© 2015

Butler University

BUTLER UNIVERSITY (visited 9/18/14)

~Butler Arts 2

Arts Center

If you want a top-notch education in Dance, Butler is your place. Students here have turned down acceptances to Julliard to attend Butler instead. In fact, their music and arts programs in general tend to be excellent.

~Butler planetarium

Planetarium

Butler’s campus is spacious (about 300 acres) compared to the student population (about 4200 undergrads). Most of the buildings are attractive, much of it made from stone. One of the prominent buildings on campus is the planetarium; the Astronomy and Astrophysics department is well-regarded.

Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away from the tour feeling like I knew much more about Butler than I did when I started. I visited as part of a Counselor event; we didn’t get any sort of info session so we tried to get as much as possible from our tour guide. She worked very hard and was definitely perky, but it was almost impossible to get her “off script” from what she learned for the tour. She had a hard time answering questions such as what her favorite traditions were, her favorite classes, etc. Even getting her to tell us about the numbers of students in her largest and smallest classes was difficult; she reverted to telling us statistics about averages. We did learn, however, that Butler has an “8 Before You Graduate” program: students are expected to go to 8 cultural events over their time there. “It’s pretty easy – it’s only 1 per semester and there’s a ton of stuff happening.”

~Butler Athletics

Athletic Complex

Many people know Butler because of its sports teams; they have 19 DI teams competing in the Big East and generally do well for themselves. We weren’t able to go into the gym, unfortunately, due to some refurbishing, but the building itself is impressive (and we did get to meet the bulldog mascot). Not surprisingly, they offer a Sports Media major!

~Butler real bulldog 2

Bulldog mascot

Butler is offering some interesting Interdisciplinary degree programs such as Psychology combined with Anthropology, Criminology, PoliSci, Philosophy, or Sociology; (Anthropology can also be combined with History, and History can be combined with PoliSci). The Engineering Dual Degree Program allows students to major in Math, Physics, Bio, Chem, CompSci, Econ, or Science, Tech, and Society at Butler, and then earn an engineering degree in Biomedical, Computer, Electrical, or Mechanical Engineering at Purdue.

The Pharmacy program is direct-admit, and in 2011, they ranked #6 in pass-rates on national exams. The pass rate for the Physician’s Assistant program is also higher than the national average.

About 70% of students live on campus; they have a 3-year residency requirement unless the students commute from home. There are 2 traditional-style freshmen dorms. A large new dorm is in the works.

~Butler Greek 3

One of the Greek Houses

This will also have a parking structure. Affiliated upperclassmen can opt to live in Greek Housing, which is considered on-campus for residency requirements. A little over 1/3 of students are affiliated with Greek Life. The tour guide said that it’s “Prominent but not Dominant.”

© 2014

Franklin and Marshall College

Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA (visited 1/25/12)

Occasionally, I find a college that makes me want a “do-over.” This is one of them. The campus has a quintessential college feel to it: quads, lots of brick buildings, statues of the college namesakes. It’s absolutely gorgeous! There is a lot of flexibility in academic programs and an expectation that students will “step up to the plate” and take charge of their learning. Students tend to be creative, curious, outgoing, engaged, and socially-minded.

There are two main quads on campus – the academic and the residential. The residential halls are long, 3-4 story buildings that line the residential quad. The admissions rep, a graduate of the college, describes them as “Harry Potteresque.” The dorms house all levels of students; first-years get placed into houses, a bit by luck-of-the-draw, and they generally stay in the same dorm all 4 years. It is possible to switch residence halls in future years, but apparently this is not common. First-year-seminar cohorts are placed into a dorm together so the class that incoming students sign up for will help determine where they live. Each dorm has a large common room, and classes are sometimes held there. Dons and Prefects live in each building, and each house also has a House Government so there are a lot of leadership opportunities (these opps are definitely available in other parts of campus, too). 98% of students live on campus. It really is a community. People I saw around campus were engaged with their studies and with each other – they were not isolating themselves in order to do well in classes. They seemed to be taking full advantage of the things going on around campus.

On the main street, there are many houses which hold different programs on campus. I got to tour the Hillel House and the Writing House. Both were being widely used, even around 5pm. A writing seminar wrapped up just before I went into the building; walking by it earlier, I could see the students in the front room sitting on couches and comfortable chairs, actively engaging in discussion.

Classes are all small; there is no hiding in the back of a classroom and passively getting an education here. In addition to being able to major in writing (within the English department, students choose either the literature or writing track), there are other fairly unusual majors for a schools this size (about 2,400 students): there are several majors in non-European languages (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian), Astronomy, Judaic Studies (there is a high percentage of Jewish students on campus), Scientific and Philosophical Studies of the Mind (combining things like psych, philosophy, biology, and computer science), and a combined Theater, Music, and Dance department. Their Performing Arts center is fairly new, and within that major, students can design a program that interests them. If someone wants to major in theater tech, it can be done.

(c) 2012

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