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Dr. Thomas Oberst Awarded the 2016-2017 Henderson Lectureship

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Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dr. Thomas E. Oberst, associate professor of physics and director of the planetarium and observatory at Westminster College, has been named the 2016-2017 Henderson Lecturer.

The lecture is open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26 in the Witherspoon Rooms of the McKelvey Campus Center.

Oberst will focus his lecture on the science of exoplanets – planets outside the solar system – framed by the question, “Is Earth the only planet with life?” Oberst has co-discovered more than a dozen exoplanets over the past three years.

“Life or no life, each planet is a whole new world – a unique plot of real estate in the Cosmos,” said Oberst. “Studying these planets helps us put the Solar System, the Earth, and humankind in context.”

To discover and characterize exoplanets, Oberst employs Westminster’s campus observatory and a team of undergraduate student researchers.

“The study of exoplanets not only advances the frontiers of our knowledge of the natural world, but also enables students to conduct cutting-edge hands-on research right here in New Wilmington,” said Oberst. “We are training the next generation of scientists and engineers. The techniques used to study exoplanets are applicable across many technical fields, and many of our alumni go on to employment in Western Pennsylvania industries.”

Oberst’s research is part of a growing program in physics, engineering, and astronomy at Westminster, where a new major in engineering physics and new minor in astronomy will begin in fall 2016.

Oberst, who has been at Westminster College since 2008, earned his undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics from Duquesne University. He received his master’s degree in physics and his doctorate in astrophysics from Cornell University.

The Henderson Lecture was founded by Dr. Joseph R. Henderson and his wife, Elizabeth, to encourage and recognize original and continuing research and scholarship among Westminster College faculty, and to afford the opportunity for faculty to share their learning with the academic community. Dr. Henderson, professor Emeritus of education at Westminster, served as chair of the education department and as director of the Graduate Program.

Each year, Westminster faculty members may nominate themselves or others to receive the Henderson Lectureship, and a selected faculty committee chooses the recipient from the nominees.

For more information, contact Gabriella Budai at or (724) 946-7122.