Wright College instructor Justin Lowry is proof that there’s always more to learn. He is one of just 18 teachers in the United States to join the 2023 cohort of NASA Astronomy Activation Ambassadors.
The astronomy and physics instructor applied to the program last year on a whim after learning about it through a faculty member at Harold Washington College. He got an early Christmas gift in December 2022 when he learned he was accepted into the program.
Justin’s award is a high honor, and it’s also a learning opportunity. This program teaches members of its cohort about NASA’s astrophysics and planetary science missions, provides them access to NASA education resources, and shares a curriculum for their students about NASA research.
So far, Justin has spent the semester in Zoom meetings with the other members of his cohort going over infrared astronomy. Infrared astronomy is the observation and analysis of planets, stars, comets and much more using infrared radiation. The ambassadors are prepping for their one-day intensive workshop in Denver in June. That’s where Justin and his colleagues will review the curriculum that they can bring back to their classrooms.
The part of this experience Justin is most excited about is the week he and the other ambassadors will spend in Hawaii. They will head to Mauna Kea. It’s a mountain with many observatories—and a place Justin has always wanted to go. There, the ambassadors will visit the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), an infrared telescope that NASA owns. They will learn more about infrared astronomy and explore the universe at these observatories. All things Justin is eager to bring back to his students.
“This is real-world experience that affects my teaching,” he said. “I’m grateful they accepted me.”
Justin has been interested in astronomy and science since he was a child. He’s humbled and feels fortunate to have this opportunity to be immersed in a subject he loves. He’s looking forward to sharing his newfound knowledge with his students. Justin also hopes to be able to present what he’s learned to faculty members upon his return.