Professor offers ‘best’ in astronomy classes
January 31, 2011 ·
If we're lucky, we've had that teacher we'll always remember, the one who motivates us to achieve beyond what we even thought possible.
Astronomy students at
Shepherd University have the best, literally, and he's teaching them to reach
for the stars when they take his astronomy classes.
“The sky is our heritage,” Dr.
Jason Best said. “It’s a grand universe and we’re all a part of it and there’s
a connection to our heritage that if we stop looking up we lose that
connection, we lose part of that heritage."
Best is an astrophysicist
who has dreamed of being an astronomer since he was a small child. For 14 years
he’s enthusiastically guided students at Shepherd through classes.
Citing statistics that say
the United States has a 25 percent science literacy rate; Best is a man on a
mission preaching a fire and brimstone gospel of science to anyone who will
That’s the case in his
Shepherd University class where students are learning the relationship between
physics and astronomy starting with a condensed history of man’s knowledge of
the universe before the students replicate an experiment originally done by
Galileo in the early 1600’s.
“My hope is that people
embrace science literacy in the way that we’ve embraced English literacy,” Best
said. “I believe that science literacy is no less critical it’s an issue of
national security, it’s an issue of understanding our democracy, and it’s an
issue for our society and let’s move forward and let’s understand it.
“Dr. Best is awesome,”
Alison Stur, student, said. “He is very exited about what he’s teaching and if
there’s ever a question as to why we don’t understand something, you know if we
have trouble understanding, he goes out of how way, he will walk around the
room and make himself a planet if he has to, he really is an active professor.”
In 2004 the University
acquired a research telescope that's 14 inches in diameter and sits
in an observatory on the roof of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative
Studies on Shepherd’s campus. It allows students to study the skies and conduct
Whether by looking through a
telescope or focusing on a project in class, Best hopes to inspire more
students to explore how scientific discovery can lead to a better world.
“When we breathe, when we
drink water, any of the things we do are tied to science are tied to
understanding the world and how it works and the more we understand how the
world works the better we can understand our place within it,” Best said.