Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
General Public: Museum
Program Development Coordinator
Robert Marshall is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a B.S. in the field of astronomy, math, and the natural sciences. As program development coordinator and educator for the Buhl Planetarium and Observatory, he is employed at Carnegie Science Center where he presents real astronomical data to the public, develops curriculum for both University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon Osher programs, and travels the country for Fisher Science Education inspiring the teaching community. Furthermore, Robert has participated in research at Allegheny Observatory and is currently participating in NITARP.
In his free time, Robert captains the Carnegie Science Center bicycle team in the American Diabetes Association's annual Pittsburgh Tour de Cure fundraiser for scientific research. He also works with team members to restore recycled bicycles for their event ride. During the warmer months, Robert takes time off to lead children at a summer camp as camp councilor - showing them planets and galaxies through telescopes on clear evenings. Robert also sits on the board of his St. Nicholas church, enjoys rocking out on the guitar during employee jam sessions, and competing in Triathlon.
Dr. Laurence (and Connor Laurence, who also participated as a student in NITARP) and Mr. Marshall presented information about their NITARP experience at the NSTA in Boston in April 2014. They got a great response from the people they talked to! They presented at the First Annual Aerospace Share-a-thon and the attendance was approximately 100 teachers.
Both NITARP 2014 teams submitted research proposals. Several NITARP alumni helped review them.
Mr. Marshall has given nearly 25 hours of presentations already about NITARP and his experiences, and/or about things he learned about through NITARP. He has given several presentations at his own Buhl Planetarum, but also at the rest of the Carnegie Science Center, to staff, students, and the public. He has also given presentations at several regional and/or national venues such as the NSTA in Boston last April.
Several NITARP current participants and alumni will be at the NSTA in Texas this week.
[At the Jan 2014 AAS,] This year, I spent more time walking around and reading posters. I felt less intimidated to talk to those who spent time in front of their poster as well.
You and this program (NITARP) have been truly remarkable and has already changed my life forever. I'm just waiting to see what happens next.
This week at Caltech was the greatest opportunity of my career. It was an experience that was humbling and at the same time gave me confidence. I cannot thank the NITARP program enough for the professional development, the professional relationships I've grown, and the inspiration. Thank you NITARP! Please keep this educational program going.
Real astronomy is very exciting! I was not expecting to have to solve problems in excel the way we did. We were asked to answer simple questions or develop simple graphs at times but in order to get correct results (as far as we can tell) our team had to parse our skills and play with logic. I remember creating my first SED: I became so excited I could not sit down anymore. Another teacher was so thrilled they raised their hands and yelled in excitement. It was the first time we had results; it was a thrill.
Again, NITARP never fails to positively surprise me by changing my perception of astronomy and the scientific process in general. I have been blown away with the amount of work that, for our respective project, goes into reducing a tiny patch on the sky. There is so much to know and not enough time to learn everything - I understand what PhD really means and how astronomy explains the Universe.
I was pleasantly shocked by the engagement between all educators and all students. The students, all between the ages of 15 and 17, were engaging not only with the teacher they came with but with all the teachers. They were open to learning new things from educators who they were unfamiliar and at the same time assisting one another and every teacher just the same. Throughout the week everyone ran into problems that needed to be solved. Sometimes it was our veteran mentor who came to the rescue. More often than not it was a student who could educate everyone.
The AAS conference is a factory for knowledge and truth about the Universe. As David Helfand, president of the society said in his opening remarks, “We do astronomy because it defines us as human beings”. I’m just now truly beginning to understand.
The nature of [astronomers'] work – retracing their steps for accuracy, being critical of fellow colleagues, and looking to develop the next best project that has not been accomplished already – requires astronomers to discuss, inquire, and exchange their ideas with one another.
Astronomers, all of whom are scientists, can be personal, funny, and outright social beings.
Before ever having experienced an AAS meeting, I thought I was well versed in the astronomer’s culture. [..] I also thought I knew what an astronomer did. [..] Well, this 221st meeting of the AAS has certainly been an eye opener. [..] My experience has been one of culture shock.