Heidi White
Heidi White

Wednesday 22nd June, 2022

Talks & Workshops

Heidi White – PASEA : Inspiring Future STEM Leaders in Africa

  15:45 - 16:00

PASEA (the Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers) is a biannual experiential short course in astronomy for African university students, designed and taught by a team of astronomers and science educators from Africa and across the globe. PASEA’s vision is to build a critical mass of astronomers in Africa and exchange ideas about teaching across continents. Founded in 2013 by astronomers based at the University of Toronto and the University of Nigeria, this school has graduated ~250 students from the African continent, many of whom are now graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in astronomy programs around the world. In this talk, I will be describing our new program featuring a series of remotely deployed observational research projects for ~60 alumni of PASEA in Spring/Summer 2022. This aims to provide a large number of STEM-interested undergraduate students from critically underserved communities the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience, foster their scientific curiosity, and develop their self-identity as scientists. As part of our program, PASEA alumni remotely observe short-timescale transient/variable targets over a three-week period with the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) telescope network. Under the guidance of career astronomers, students collaboratively plan their observations and develop the coding, photometry, and light curve analysis skills necessary to interpret their LCO data. I will also discuss our unique pedagogical approach featuring adaptive, inquiry-based learning and our methods for establishing an inclusive, equitable teaching environment for project coordinators to enrich their educational and science communication skills. This new PASEA initiative aims to provide access to studying the Universe to young people from historically underrepresented groups and to inspire the next generation of leaders in astronomical instrumentation and data science.

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