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Westminster College Introduces Astronomy Program

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Posted on Thursday, September 1, 2016

Westminster College will introduce an astronomy minor program for the 2016-2017 school year.

The program builds on a strong array of astronomy-related resources at Westminster, including a research observatory on campus; a planetarium theater and classroom; a large collection of teaching telescopes and cameras; a recent $250,000 National Science Foundation grant for student travel and research in astronomy; and two professional astronomers on the faculty, associate professors of physics Dr. Thomas Oberst and Dr. Robert Knop.

Knop was part of a team that won the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics for discovering the acceleration of the expansion of the universe and last year was awarded a portion of the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for that work. Oberst has co-discovered 15 exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than the sun) in the past three years.

Of 350 small colleges within a 300-mile radius, Westminster is one of only 11 to offer an astronomy program. The minor is open to students with any major and offers both calculus and calculus-free tracks.

“This program is designed to serve students pursuing careers in astrophysics research or the aerospace industries as well as non-science majors simply seeking to satisfy a deep intellectual curiosity about the universe,” said Oberst, who is the program director.

The astronomy minor joins a major in engineering physics as the second new program introduced within the past two years by Westminster’s physics department.

Visit or contact Oberst at 724-946-7204 (email for additional information.