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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA astronomy professor wins award and million dollar grant


Photo courtesy of Chris Impey

Impey won the title Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and a $1 million grant to innovate online science education.

A UA astronomy professor was recognized last week with an award that will grant him $1 million to advance online science education for undergraduates.

Chris Impey, a university distinguished professor and deputy head of the department of astronomy, is one of just 15 educators in the country who were awarded the title of Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.

The HHMI Professors Program, founded in 2002, was created with the vision to empower professors to introduce innovative approaches in teaching science to undergraduates at research universities.

“Exceptional teachers have a lasting impact on students,” HHMI president Robert Tjian said. “These scientists are at the top of their respective fields and they bring the same creativity and rigor to science education that they bring to their research.”

Impey, who has won 11 teaching awards during his career, is known as a pioneer in the use of instructional technology for teaching science to undergraduate non-science majors.

“With a five-year award, and the kind of latitude that HHMI gives to pursue ideas, it’s exciting because there’s an opportunity to experiment,” Impey said.

Impey will utilize the five-year grant to design and implement an online course in introductory astronomy using the learner-centered instruction techniques and innovations he has tested in the classroom, according to a press release by the UA.

“The core of the project is to do a standard university undergraduate course for non-science majors and take it fully into the online arena, while using the best pedagogy,” Impey said. “The heart of the challenge is to include the engagement, interaction and learning necessary to make it a good experience rather than a pale shadow of a face-to-face class.”

Impey, who came to the UA in 1986, has more than 170 peer reviewed publications on observational cosmology, galaxies and quasars. His research has been supported by grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Impey is currently teaching an online class with more than 14,000 students enrolled.

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