• IPAC
Thomas Rutherford

Mr. Thomas Rutherford

Thomas Rutherford

Sullivan South High School, Kingsport, Tennessee

Grades or community reached

General Public: Amateur, 10, 11, 12


Mr. Rutherford has joined NITARP in 2013.





  • It’s addictive—this is not like any other program that you have ever been through, where you participate for a while and then finish up and then it’s just something that you did once. I have found that I don’t want to stop[...] A certain percentage of us, at least, can’t put this down once we are exposed to it.

  • My life has changed in some way because of my participation in this program. My wife, my children, and my co-workers have all remarked at how I am different now. I don’t know whether it was the program, the people that I worked with, or some combination of the two, but whatever it was something about it changed me. I know that “life-changing experience” was not one of the outcomes that you hoped for when you planned the program, but it is what happened with me. Thank you very much for allowing me to participate— this has been one of the best years of my life.

  • I will definitely be using the skills and the knowledge that I acquired in the NITARP program in the future for my own and for my future students’ research.

  • The students were also great to work with—not only mine, but those of the other teachers as well. They were a great bunch of kids to hang out with. It was really great getting to work alongside them instead of in the usual student-teacher sort of relationship—I’ll miss them, too.

  • I also found that I really enjoy the camaraderie that exists between me and the other teachers in my group—we fit together really well and enjoy one another’s company very much. I found that these teachers from other parts of the country were just like me in a lot of ways. I am somewhat sad in that since we are now alumni, there is a chance that I will never see them again because we live so far from one another, but I really hope that is not the case. We do have plans to continue the project together, but we don’t know for sure where that will lead.

  • I think that my NITARP experience is one of the best things that I have ever done in my life, both as an educator and as an individual. I have found that I really like doing research and plan to continue that in the future both with my students and as an individual.

  • The best thing about the trip was the chance to interact with others who are trying to do the same things that I am trying to do. No one else around me tries to do student research (even though I have tried to get other teachers involved), not in my district nor in any of the surrounding ones. It was great to spend time with other teachers (and their students) who are trying to accomplish the same things that I am trying to do.

  • I also learned that modern astronomy research is often conducted using vast databases of archived data collected years previously. When my past students did astronomy research projects, they used data that they themselves collected[..]. After working at Caltech with the group, though, I have come to realize that what my students have been doing previously were small projects compared to our AGN study—they were really just glorified lab activities. I have been giving a lot of thought to this since I returned home and am planning major changes in the sort of projects that my research students will be working on in the future.

  • [Because of a poster I saw at the AAS and] my participation in the NITARP program, I will be raising the standards for my students in the future.

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We're back from the Jan 2023 AAS and we had a grand time!