Eyes Turned Skyward by Beth Mullins
If you happen to remember hearing something about Pluto lately or have always been fascinated by astronomy, come check out the October NE library display. Raymond Benge, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at TCC NE Campus, is coordinating a library display on astronomy for the month of October with various astronomical models, images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and other items and books to catch your interest. Professor Benge is also putting together a slide presentation for a digital display for the month.
Professor Benge has an interesting background and plenty of exciting stories to tell about astronomy. As a child who grew up in Houston, his family encouraged his interest in science and they made many visits to the Johnson Space Center during the heyday of the United States space program. His dream was to become an astronaut, but because he had vision problems that would keep him from becoming a pilot, he decided to instead major in astronomy in college. During his college years he was a teaching assistant, he was in charge of astronomy labs, he was director of operations for an observatory, and other physics and astronomy related positions. He has a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Duke University, a Master’s in physics from Texas A&M, and did doctoral studies at UNT. After teaching part-time at DCCD, Collin College, and TCC, he accepted a full-time teaching position at TCC NE Campus over 15 years ago. His favorite thing about teaching physics and astronomy is when he sees students getting flashes of insight. In his classes at NE Campus, he’s had students who discovered unknown asteroids (see link to article below) and has had students who have gone on to get doctorates in physics and astronomy.
Besides teaching, Professor Benge enjoys writing articles, speaking on astronomy, hosting star parties, and advising the Astronomy Club. When advising students on what major to choose, he recommends not trying to second-guess the job market, but to choose a career that they’ll love. Here are some career paths a physics/astronomy major might take: teaching on various educational levels, engineering, weapons development, defense-related fields, industry research and development, environmental fields, analyzing spy telescope data, insurance actuaries, scientific writing, nanotechnology, and medical applications—WOW! (see link to career article).
In addition to his academic activities, Professor Benge has served on many TCC NE Campus and TCC District committees, as NE Campus Faculty Association president and as a member of the Faculty Senate.
One of my favorite tales of his experiences involves his ride on the “Vomit Comet” in January 2009. With funding from the NASA Education Office, he and a team were given a chance to ride the NASA “Weightless Wonder” plane that flies to 30,000 ft. to experience weightlessness. The experiment his team did was on harmonic oscillation in multiple different gravities. See the article below that describes another team’s experience on the “Vomit Comet”—so called because many experience nausea along with the weightlessness.
“The sky is the limit only for those who aren’t afraid to fly!”
― Bob Bello, Sci-Fi Almanac, 2010
Sources related to this article:
Austin, J. (2008, March 17). 2 TCC students are first to spot far-off asteroid. (2008, March 17). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, p. B1. Retrieved from Austin article
Dempsey, R., DiLisi, G.A., DiLisi, L.A., & Santo, G. (2007). Thank you for flying the vomit comet. The Physics Teacher, 45, 75-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2432082
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2004, October 29). Zero-gravity plane on final flight. Retrieved from NASA article
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014). Physicists and astronomers. In Occupational outlook handbook (2014-2015 ed.). Retrieved from Occupational Outlook Handbook
In Astronomy, NE Library, Science & Technology