Monthly Archives: November 2015

*The collaborative nature of Southern’s STEM program was highlighted in a story that was published Nov. 30 in the New Haven Register. The article looked at how other disciplines, such as business and philosophy, are incorporated into some of the STEM programs. Christine Broadbridge, director of STEM initiatives; Ellen Durnin, dean of the School of Business; and Sarah Roe, assistant professor of philosophy, were quoted in the story.

*A forum conducted by Southern’s Psychology Department and its Journal of Student Psychological Research, in conjunction with the Literacy Coalition of Greater New Haven, was covered by the New Haven Independent with an article posted Nov. 24. The forum focused on early literacy experiences, the brain and child development. Among those mentioned in the story were panelists Julia Irwin, associate professor of psychology; Laura Raynolds, associate professor of special education and reading; and Cheryl Durwin, professor of psychology and an organizer of the event.

*The Nov. 16 Astronomy Forum, “Missions Possible: A Manned Flight to Mars, & Finding ‘New Earths’ in the Milky Way Galaxy,” generated a slew of media coverage for Southern.

The event focused on two major astronomy projects by NASA – the exploration of Mars, and the Kepler Mission. Two NASA scientists – Steve Howell and Jennifer Stern – were the guest speakers. A panel discussion followed and included SCSU faculty members Elliott Horch andJames Fullmer, as well as a Yale University post-doctoral fellow Tabetha Boyajian.

The event attracted 650 people – including about 425 high school students from 14 Connecticut high schools. Also attending were 45 people from area senior centers; about 30 middle school students; and others from the general public, in addition to our students and other members of the campus community. Many of the high school students also toured the new science building and were treated to a lunch after the forum.

Media highlights included the following:

  • The Danbury News-Times included a column on Nov. 22 written by Robert Miller and focusing on a local angle (Newtown and Abbott Tech of Danbury high school science classes attending).
  • The Connecticut Post ran a front page story on Nov. 17 that incorporated the forum, as well as included a picture of our speakers – which included Elliott Horch, professor of physics, and Jim Fullmer, associate professor of earth science.
  • The Connecticut (Television) Network (CT-N)covered the forum in its entirety.
  • The New Haven Register posted several photos from the event online on Nov. 16 as submitted to the paper.
  • Channel 61 covered the forum with a story that aired on its Nov. 16 evening newscast.
  • The Waterbury Republican-American ran an advance about the forum on Nov. 13. (Please note that you have to be a subscriber to see beyond the first few sentences of the article.)
  • The Fairfield County Business Journal ran an advance about the forum in its Nov. 9 edition.
  • The blog, “Connecticut By The Numbers,” included a Nov. 12 post that previewed the forum.
  • A preview of the forum was posted Oct. 27 in the Hartford Courant’s online MyTownssection.
  • The East Haven Courier ran a Page 1 story in its Dec. 1 edition about how East Haven High School science students attended the Nov. 16 SCSU astronomy forum, “Missions Possible: A Manned Flight to Mars, & Finding ‘New Earths’ in the Milky Way Galaxy.” East Haven was one of 14 high schools at the event.

*Channel 8 aired an interview on its Nov. 11 morning newscast with Jim Tait, professor of the environment, geography and marine sciences, about the potential effects of climate change in this region.

*Channel 30 aired a segment during a Nov. 10 newscast about students participating in the “Our World” event, in which students sought to demonstrate how words written on their bodies can have a larger impact than the spoken word. Tracy Tyree, vice president for student affairs, was among those interviewed about the effort, which was part of Social Justice Week.

*The New Haven Register ran a story in its Nov. 9 paper about a new course being taught this semester by Jessica Suckle-Nelson, associate professor of psychology, called “Social Psychology of Stereotypes and Prejudice.” The story explores the psychological side of prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination.

*Vince Breslin, co-chairman of the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences, was quoted extensively in a front page story Nov. 6 the Waterbury Republican-American. The article examined the presence of microbeads in New Haven Harbor as found during a study conducted several months ago by Vince and former SCSU undergraduate studentPeter Litwin. (Please note you have to be a subscriber to the paper to read more than the first few sentences.)

*Alan Brown, assistant professor of sociology, was rated by the Halifax, Nova Scotia weekly newspaper, The Coast, as the Best Professor in its circulation area. The article was posted online on Nov. 5 and refers to last year, when he taught at Mount St. Vincent University.

*Rosemarie Conforti, associate professor of media studies, was a panelist at a Nov. 4 symposium at Post University called “Navigating the New Media Universe.” The program, designed to celebrate Media Literacy Week, was coveredby Connecticut Network (CT-N).

*Jonathan Wharton, assistant professor of political science, was interviewed on Nov. 4 byChannel 8 and Channel 3 – the day after Connecticut’s municipal elections. Both interviews aired during those stations’ evening newscasts. The Channel 8 piece focused on the differences between two-year and four-year mayoral terms. The Channel 3 segment looked at the election of Joseph Ganim as mayor of Bridgeport.

*The Detroit Free Press quoted Melissa Talhelm, associate professor of English, in a Nov. 1 article with regard to research she is conducting in Michigan.

David Pettigrew, Bosnia

Through his writings, lectures and interviews with the media, Professor of Philosophy David Pettigrew has been a powerful voice for the victims of atrocities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On Nov. 29, he delivered a lecture in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, on the legacy of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the ethnic conflict in the fledgling nation 20 years ago.

Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia on March 1, 1992, triggering a secessionist bid by the country’s Serbs backed by the Yugoslavian capital, Belgrade, and a war that left about 100,000 dead, including the mass slaughter of many Bosnian Muslims by Serb forces.

Following earlier lectures in Prague and Stockholm that identified human rights violations in Republika Srpska, (the Bosnian Serb Republic), Pettigrew’s Nov. 29 speech condemned efforts in the republic to deny the genocide and to demean and otherwise psychologically intimidate Bosnian Muslims who were targeted and driven from Višegrad, in the eastern part of the country, as well as from other towns and villages across Republika Srpska.

Join Dr. Pettigrew for a film screening and discussion: Friday, Dec. 4 from 1-3 p.m.

Pettigrew wrote that the political culture in Republika Srpska “is breeding hatred and contempt of the Bosnian Muslims”:

“The culture of genocide denial and dehumanization, produces what I call in my paper a ‘cumulative cruelty’ directed at genocide survivors,” he said. “The cumulative cruelty directed against Bosnia’s Muslims and non-Serbs is the sad legacy of Dayton. The lecture calls for constitutional reform to reunify the country with national laws against hate speech and genocide denial…”

This summer, Pettigrew led a delegation to the town of Višegrad in eastern Bosnia to meet with activist Bakira Hasečić and show public solidarity with her in defense of the Pionirska Street house, where 59 women and children were burned alive. Hasečić , who was a rape victim in Višegrad, has been prosecuted and fined for trying to rebuild the house in order to save it from destruction by the municipality.

Pettigrew became particularly interested in Višegrad because of the nature of the atrocities there and because the town continues to maintain a culture of denial. Regarding the crimes in the town, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia wrote in its Judgement that:

“In the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man, the Pionirska street [June 14, 1992] and Bikavac fires [June 27, 1992] must rank high…. By burning the victims and the houses in which they were trapped, Milan Lukić and the other perpetrators intended to obliterate the identities of their victims and, in so doing, to strip them of their humanity. The families of victims could not identify or bury their loved ones. … There is a unique cruelty in expunging all traces of the individual victims which must heighten the gravity ascribed to these crime.”

Newspaper 1Newspaper 2Newspaper 3

Today, only the Pionirska Street house remains, rebuilt by Hasečić and other local activists to prevent its destruction and preserve the memory of these crimes. The house is still threatened by an “expropriation” process by the city so the only memorial to the victims could still be destroyed, said Pettigrew, who joined the members of his delegation in laying flowers in the house in memory of the victims.

“When I put the flowers in the basement at the base of a display with the photos of the victims, everyone was in tears and speechless,” he said. “Without planning it, we formed a line-up for a photo in front of the basement where the crime took place: in memory of the victims, in solidarity with Bakira, and in defiance of genocide denial.”

The delegation who attended with Pettigrew (photographed below outside the Pionirska Street house) included: Ermin Kuka and Ilvana Salić, from The Institute for Research of Crimes against Humanity and International Law at the University of Sarajevo; Professor Benjamin Moore, from Fontbonne University in St. Louis; Marketá Slavková from Charles University Prague, and Jasmin Tabaković, a refugee who fled from Višegrad with his family when he was four years old. He lives now in Belgium, and this was the first time that he had returned since his family was expelled.


Hasečić, president of the Association “Women Victims of War”-Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, wrote of Pettigrew: “At a time when the victims of the genocide and aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been abandoned, when we have been left vulnerable and exposed, while war criminals enjoy rights and protections, when we have again been forgotten by the international community, and when many historians around the world who serve the interests of the ideologues and lobbyists of greater Serbia seek to re-write history and wash the blood from the hands of the war criminals, there are a few intellectual and moral giants who dedicate their lives and research to telling humanity the truth about what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992-1995. Among these few is the distinguished Professor Dr. David Pettigrew.”

Pettigrew initially became involved in Višegrad in summer 2010 when he accompanied a government exhumation team there. Repairs on a nearby dam had caused the river level to drop, so the experts hoped they would be able to find the remains of the 3,000 victims who were murdered on the bridge and thrown into the river.

Pettigrew was assigned to a team that located loose bones on the river banks as well as full skeletons just beneath the riverbed. When about 60 of the victims had been identified, they were buried in the Muslim cemetery in Višegrad with a memorial inscribed to: “the memory of the victims of the Višegrad genocide.”

Local authorities began to plan to destroy the memorial and ground the word “genocide” from the inscription. In that and subsequent years, Pettigrew has written letters to United Nations and international government leaders, seeking to protect this memorial and the Pionirska Street house, as well delivering lectures and conducting media interviews to raise awareness about the genocide that occurred in the region and its lingering legacy. In October 2014, for example, he delivered a keynote address at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, on “The Suppression of Collective Memory and Identity in Bosnia: Prohibited Memorials and the Continuation of Genocide.”

The Institute for Research of Genocide Canada recently thanked Pettigrew for his “continuous struggle for the truth about the aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and genocide against its citizens.”

“Professor David Pettigrew is an example of an intellectual who put his knowledge at the service of truth and justice. It is a major contribution to peace in the world.”

Pettigrew’s Nov. 29 lecture and related press conference generated considerable media coverage in online portals, on television and in print:

On-line coverage

TV News

Latino high school students at SCSU

The university hosted about 300 Latino high school students on campus recently for The National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) Quest Education Summit 2015, a one-day event for Latino and other minority students run by a consortium of Hispanic professional and educational associations. The goal of Quest is to promote higher education and career development. The Connecticut chapter of NSHMBA organized and ran the summit, which included informational workshops, motivational speakers, a college fair, various networking opportunities, and a campus tour.

The Quest program provides students with a real-world connection between high school and college. Students engage with role models in the community who have overcome similar barriers to success and learn best practices for applying to and financing college; understand how to better market themselves to prospective colleges; build relationships with regional college recruiting representatives; discover the many resources available for educational and professional pursuits; and build confidence and self-sufficiency. This event is free to all attendees and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and transportation.

Latino high school students at SCSU

This year’s Quest at Southern included breakout sessions such as “Snapshot of Life on Campus,” “The Essay and the Recommendation,” “Living Healthy,” and “Balancing Life Skills,” among others. A keynote address, “Education Matters,” was delivered by Carlos Perez, principal and founder of Perez Technology Group, a Hartford-based solution provider delivering cloud and IT infrastructure services to small and midsize businesses, primarily marketing firms and law offices.

Perez, who was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and now lives in Wethersfield, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business information technology at the University of Connecticut. He has worked in many different industries, including finance, health insurance, airlines, Microsoft OME Partners, and nonprofits, among others.

Southern is one of the sponsoring partners of the Quest summit. Members of the university staff who serve on the Quest Committee include Anna Rivera-Alfaro, Academic and Career Advising, and James Barber, director of community engagement.

Steve Howell, project scientist for NASA's Kepler Mission, talks about how planets need to be in a 'habitable zone' to have a significant chance of harboring life. He discussed the Kepler Mission during a recent astronomy forum at Southern.

The question of whether we are alone in the universe has fascinated scientists and non-scientists alike for centuries.

While it’s true that speculation about intelligent beings inhabiting other planets has been fodder for science fiction, serious scientists also are eager to find out the answer to that age-old question. And the Kepler Mission is a first step — albeit a small one — toward finding the answer.

Steve Howell, project scientist for Kepler, was the keynote speaker during a Nov. 16 forum at Southern called, “Missions Possible: A Manned Flight to Mars, & Finding ‘New Earths’ in the Milky Way Galaxy.” He spoke about the conditions needed to maximize a planet’s ability to sustain life — such as being in the “Goldilocks Zone,” an area that is neither too close nor too far away from its sun.

The forum, held at Southern’s Lyman Center for the Performing Arts, attracted about 650 people, including about 425 high school students from 14 schools. Also in attendance were about 30 middle school students, 45 seniors from area senior centers and members of the general public, in addition to Southern students and faculty.

Howell and other speakers during the forum were asked by the audience whether they believe there is life on other planets — beyond microbes.

“It’s unknown,” said Elliott Horch, professor of physics at Southern. But Horch hinted that it certainly is possible given the vast number of planets that exist in our own galaxy, let alone the universe.

Howell noted the two planets believed to have the best chance of harboring life are Kepler-452(b) — which has been labeled as “Earth’s larger and older cousin,” and Kepler-186(f). It’s sun is similar to our own and the planet is believed to be in the habitable zone. But he cautioned that 452(b) is 1.7 times the size of Earth, and therefore it may well have a dense atmosphere and be more akin to a Neptune-like planet.

On the other hand, Kepler-186(f) is very similar in size to Earth, but it orbits a much cooler star than our Sun, and therefore may not be able to harbor life.

Howell added that there are other planets that Kepler has identified that could harbor life. And the project continues to find new candidates all the time.

Meanwhile, there has been much buzz in recent months about Mars — such as the discovery of liquid water on the planet. Jennifer Stern, a NASA space scientist who is an expert on Mars, also spoke at the forum. She discussed what life is like on the Red Planet and some of the challenges involved in a future manned flight to the Red Planet.

The program also included a panel discussion that included Elliott; Jim Fullmer, associate professor of earth science at Southern; and Tabetha Boyajian, a post-doctoral fellow at Yale and member of the citizen astronomy organization, “Planet Hunters.”

Elliott Horch (center) makes a point during the recent astronomy forum at Southern. Also pictured are (from left): Steve Howell, project scientist for NASA's Kepler Mission; Tabetha Boyajian, a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University; Jim Fullmer, associate professor of earth science at Southern; and Jennifer Stern, a NASA space scientist and expert  on Mars.
Elliott Horch (center) makes a point during the recent astronomy forum at Southern. Also pictured are (from left): Steve Howell, project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission; Tabetha Boyajian, a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University; Jim Fullmer, associate professor of earth science at Southern; and Jennifer Stern, a NASA space scientist and expert on Mars.

Coming soon: Talking About Mars

Hilton C. Buley Library is pleased to announce the first annual library undergraduate research awards. These awards recognize and reward SCSU undergraduate students who have excelled in their undergraduate research projects in any discipline during the 2015 calendar year: Spring, Summer, Fall. Faculty are encourage to nominate students who have completed outstanding research projects.

Students must show evidence of significant use of the library’s resources and collections. Whether students have created a historical thesis, a policy paper, a musical composition, or a scientific study, they are eligible to apply for this award.  

One student in each of the following categories will receive a monetary award of $500.00:

  • Freshmen/Sophomores
  • Juniors/Seniors

Application deadline is February 1, 2016 

To Apply:

The attached application form and all required supporting materials can be completed and submitted at

Or the documents can be submitted in person to Shirley Cavanagh at Hilton C. Buley Library, Room 112A, Access Services Division.

The deadline for the receipt of the completed application is Monday, February 1, 2016 at 5:00pm.  Late or incomplete applications will not receive consideration.

For additional information contact Shirley Cavanagh at or (203) 392-5768.grad-students-4


Faculty explore possible string ensemble for Spring 2016

The Music Department is seeking students who are experienced and interested in playing the violin, viola, cello, or double bass in a dynamic and fun string ensemble. Thanks to the generous support of the Stutzman Family Foundation, the group will be conducted by Dr. Viara Sergueeva-Albonetti – an internationally-acclaimed violinist and clinician. Selected students will rehearse for approximately 90 minutes each week and will receive (1) credit. Rehearsals will begin in the Spring 2016 semester.

For more information or to schedule an audition, please contact Dr. Albonetti at


Members of local literacy organizations will gather on campus on November 19 for a research forum sponsored by the university’s Journal of Student Psychological Research (JSPR). The forum, “Early Literacy Experiences, the Brain, and Child Development,” will feature a panel discussion with Dr. Perri Klass, National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read and a New York Times columnist; Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Education; and Dr. Julia Irwin, psychology professor at Southern and senior research scientist at Haskins Laboratories. Their discussion will be moderated by Dr. Laura Raynolds, SCSU professor of special education and reading and research affiliate at Haskins Laboratories.

Klass is a professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University, where she is co-director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She has written extensively on pediatrics, literacy, medicine, and ethics for many publications, including the New York Times.

Jones-Taylor oversees early childhood programs and early intervention programs serving more than 50,000 children in the state each year. Her research expertise focuses on the effects of early care and education reform in low-income urban communities.

Irwin is author of Preparing Children for Reading Success: Hands-On Activities for Librarians, Educators, and Caregivers, along with co-author and psychology colleague, Dr. Dina Moore. Irwin’s research focuses on the development of audiovisual speech perception.

The event will take place from 5:30-8 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Theater, with light refreshments from 5:30-6 p.m, the forum from 6-7:30 p.m., and a Q&A from 7:30-8 p.m. It is free and open to faculty, students, and any members of the community with interests in language, reading, child development, and education. Anyone interested in attending must RSVP by emailing The forum is being held in collaboration with the SCSU Psychology Department, with special thanks to The Literacy Coalition of Greater New Haven for its assistance.

Cheryl Durwin, professor of psychology, is secretary of the coalition and the representative from Southern. The coalition is a group of literacy organizations in the New Haven area, says Durwin, whose own research involves assessment of and early intervention with at-risk early readers in grades K-2. Durwin, along with Patricia Kahlbaugh, professor of psychology, is a faculty adviser to the JSPR.

Durwin says the journal was launched a couple of years ago, the brainchild of a couple of graduate students who had the idea of showcasing the research of graduate and undergraduate students. The students approached Durwin about it, and she agreed to help. While the journal is currently funded by an outside donor, the students on the editorial board have also been fundraising and are working towards the journal becoming a university organization. The forum is the first event the journal has hosted.

Current and former students work on the journal — the editors are Jessica Franco, editor-in-chief; Kandice Green, associate editor; Whitney Hoffmann, associate editor; and Joshua Ryan, associate editor.  All editors are graduate students in the M.A. program in psychology. Durwin says the journal is seeking more interdisciplinary work related to psychology from students in other departments across campus.

“It is wonderfully rewarding to mentor the students through their research,” says Durwin.

Climate Commitment

In a strong show of leadership in the sustainability arena, Southern’s President Mary A. Papazian has signed a new Climate Leadership Commitment that goes farther than the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), to which the university became a charter signatory in 2007.

Signing the ACUPCC meant pledging to reduce the university’s carbon footprint to zero by 2050, an important step to take in 2007. But over the intervening years, it has become clear that a carbon mitigation pledge alone as a strategic imperative isn’t enough.

In 2014, Second Nature, which oversees the efforts around the ACUPCC, introduced the Alliance for Resilient Campuses (ARC), to begin exploring climate adaptation and resilience as complements to the original Climate Commitment. The ACUPCC has been updated as a Carbon Commitment and, to advance the mission of ARC, a new Resilience Commitment has been formed.

Now, there are three possible Commitments a university president or chancellor can sign: the Climate Leadership Commitment, which integrates a goal of carbon neutrality with climate resilience and provides a systems approach to mitigating and adapting to a changing climate; the Carbon Commitment, which is focused on carbon neutrality; and the Resilience Commitment, which deals with climate resilience and adaptation. Papazian, with approval from the Cabinet, signed the first of the three.

“Under this new integrated Climate Leadership Commitment, we are formally committing to continue what we have been working on for many years,” says Papazian. “This includes incorporating sustainability across all of our operations, as well as further developing sustainability in our academic programs, greening our purchasing practices, the way we care for our buildings and grounds, our co-curricular offerings, and reducing the amount of materials we throw away.”

She added, “We are educating our students to prepare them for environmental issues that will be prevalent when they graduate, and the new commitment means that we are going farther than just striving for carbon neutrality. The Climate Leadership Commitment is more than just a declaration or statement: it is a catalyst for rigorous and robust actions on our campus and in our community.”

Southern is one of only 40 of the original 600-plus signatories from across the country to join the new commitment thus far.

Suzanne Huminski, the university’s sustainability coordinator, explains, “In 2007, the conversation was still about ‘is there climate change?’ and about carbon reduction. But climate change impacts are prevalent in the world around us – like the health of Long Island Sound, for instance, or the growing vulnerability of neighborhoods, transportation corridors, and waste water treatment plants close to shore. Studying coastal resilience and the health of the Sound, which the Werth Center has been doing for many years, can now be recognized in our university climate commitment, rather than solely focusing on reducing carbon emissions.”

Signing the new commitment “means we are building a stronger community around adaptation and resilience,” Huminski adds.

Climate Commitment

Resilience, in the world of sustainability, has to do with two areas, she explains. The first has to do with  planning and implementing strategies to prevent or minimize future harm caused by climate change impacts. But even with excellent planning and communication, unexpected challenges will arise, so resilience is also the institution’s ability to recover from unexpected events and adapt to “the new normals” that a changed climate brings.

“We need to be better equipped for these challenges, and we have a role to play in helping surrounding communities do the same,” she says.

The university has made significant strides in sustainability in recent years. From new campus construction and facilities renovations to green transportation options and programs like the Food Recovery Network, Campus Conservation Nationals, Recyclemania, Plant It Forward, and Compost Happens, to projects like the campus community garden, Urban Oasis, Green Room Certification, and refillable water bottle stations, to presentations by guest speakers, and much more — the university has been working on sustainability on many fronts. The Office of Sustainability tracks progress toward meeting greenhouse gas and waste reduction goals of the ACUPCC.

The university is also committed to and has a long history of integrating sustainability into the educational environment, and offers one of the only Environmental Education Master’s programs in New England. The geography degree offers a concentration in sustainability, and the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies has endowed research positions for undergraduates. New for fall 2016, Southern will offer an undergraduate major in Environmental Systems and Sustainability, and the School of Business has developed courses in sustainability management. For many years Southern’s Public Health Department has focused on food justice and access, and one focus of the sustainability office in the past year has been to expand opportunities for student internships, both on campus and partnering with industry.

Huminski says that Southern is attracting national attention for its efforts toward more sustainable operations. This fall, the university was profiled in Business View Magazine for its sustainable practices. The university has twice been named one of the nation’s greenest colleges and universities by the Princeton Review and recently received top honors for a national energy efficiency award sponsored by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. This award was based on energy savings from the Adanti Student Center recommissioning project, which utilized wireless sensing and online energy analytics to address less-than-optimal energy performance . The project paid for itself in three months, and resulted in a 17 percent reduction in energy use in the building.

Huminski points to the dedication of administration, faculty, and staff for embracing sustainability across campus operations. “Students have always been involved,” she says, “but Facilities Operations and Southern’s executive leadership are also a driving force in adopting sustainability. Effective leadership is critical to success.”

Papazian says, “Signing the Climate Leadership Commitment sends a powerful message that we will do better working on this as a campus community — and as part of regional and global communities. Reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the dynamic and changing world around us is complex and involves everyone on campus. We have already been doing this work – with the help of so many folks here at the university.”


A Southern astrophysicist will take the clearest images ever photographed of 2,000 of the nearest stars to Earth as part of a collaborative project that ultimately will tell us how typical our solar system is within the Milky Way Galaxy.

The study – funded by a $335,326 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) – will enable Elliott Horch, professor of physics, to use an instrument he developed several years ago that is attached to telescopes and provides images many times clearer than previously could be taken. The device is called a Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI).

The grant was approved after research conducted by Georgia State University identified and catalogued stars within 150 light years of Earth. It is part of a collaborative effort in which SCSU will observe and capture images of the stars, followed by in-depth analysis by GSU.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to explore our ‘local neighborhood’ of stars and solar systems, and in effect, learn more about our own sun and solar system,” Horch said.

Horch will be among the panelists for SCSU’s Nov. 16 astronomy forum, “Missions Possible: A Manned Flight to Mars, & Finding ‘New Earths’ in the Milky Way Galaxy.” The forum will look at NASA’s plans for human exploration of Mars, as well as its Kepler Mission, the search for Earth-like planets outside of our solar system. The forum, free and open to the public, will run from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.

Horch said among the questions to be answered in the new NSF-funded study is what percentage of these stars is binary. Binary stars are systems in which stars have a “companion” and in which they orbit around each other. The sun is considered a solitary star because it lacks such a companion.

“We believe it’s probably about a 50-50 breakdown in terms of solitary vs. binary, but this project will give us more data to see if that is true of these 2,000 stars,” Horch said. He noted that while there are more than 2,000 stars within 150 light years of Earth, this provides a representative sample to study.

Horch said the study also will look at how many stars have rocky planets like Earth and Mars orbiting them in a “habitable zone,” a distance that is neither too close nor too distant to support life.

He noted that the grant will enable the university to hire a doctoral student to assist with the project, as well as provide SCSU students with opportunities to participate in the research.

This will mark the third NSF grant that Horch has received in the last decade. In addition to being awarded a grant to develop the DSSI, he received a $300,000 grant recently to produce a double-barrel telescope that generates ultra-high resolutions. The technical name is a “portable multi-channel intensity inferometer.

“Using the DSSI is like putting eyeglasses on a telescope,” he said. “The double-barrel telescope is like remaking the whole eye.”