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Behind the scenes with Kathy Hadley, astronomy and physics instructor

Kathy Hadley, an Oregon State astronomy instructor, wears an olive green blouse and smiles slightly.

Kathy Hadley’s career as an educator and researcher in astrophysics can be traced to a book about the universe she got for Christmas as a child.

A professor of astronomy and physics is focused heavily on the happenings of our solar system and beyond, but Kathy Hadley is just as interested in what’s happening on our planet. Namely, she has a long-held passion for teaching students no matter where they are, geographically and scholastically. Her work as an instructor in Oregon State’s Department of Physics is one element of proof. Kathy is the driving force behind a series of physics courses offered online through Oregon State Ecampus, delivering important and innovative learning opportunities to a global audience. Kathy’s primary research interest is in computational modeling of protoplanetary and protostellar star/disk systems. She holds a B.S. in Physics from Central Washington University and earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Oregon.

By Tyler Hansen
July 25, 2017

Tell us about your role as an Ecampus instructor.

“I teach a sequence of astronomy classes. Topics include the solar system, stars and star formation, galaxies and cosmology.”

How old were you when you became interested in astronomy, and what sparked that interest?

“The first time I remember being interested in astronomy was when I was about 8. My mom gave me a book for Christmas called ‘The Universe.’ It was a challenging read at the time, but I loved it.”

What do you like most about teaching astronomy and astrophysics online?

“I have topical group discussions, where students choose a topic of interest and research it for a couple of weeks with three to five like-minded people. Topics range from the cultural significance of constellations to general relativity and everywhere in-between. Some of the students choose very fascinating avenues to explore. I end up learning quite a bit from them and engaging in stimulating conversation.”

On Aug. 21, there will be a total solar eclipse. What excites you most about this rare event?

“I think that a solar eclipse induces a feeling of wonder and oneness with the universe. It reminds us that we are on a planet and that there are bigger things than Earth.”

If you could realistically visit any planet or star system in our galaxy, where would you go and why?

“I don’t know yet. We are just beginning to find exoplanets, and have not identified any as harboring life yet. I’d probably be most interested in other forms of life. Beyond that, I’d like to see the supermassive black hole at our galaxy center.”

What do you see as the primary benefits of online learning?

“Flexibility is one of the primary benefits. Folks can take a college class, fitting it into their busy lives, no matter where they live.”

How have you evolved as an educator since you began teaching classes online with Ecampus?

“I have become much more personally aware of my students than I was when I taught online at other institutions.”

In 20 words or fewer, what’s your best advice for Ecampus students?

“Make time for your study. Don’t let the class get ahead of you.”

What are your non-astronomical hobbies?

“I enjoy walking in the forest.”

How will you celebrate the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21?

“I’ll be on campus with many others, watching the sky.”

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