Dr. Matthew A. Wood, a professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, has been awarded funds by the National Science Foundation to acquire a new research-grade astronomical observing facility for Texas A&M-University-Commerce. His collaborators on the proposal are Drs. Kent Montgomery and Kurtis Williams, also of the Department of Physics & Astronomy.
Dr. Wood, an astronomer whose research focuses on cataclysmic variable stars, astrophysical fluid dynamics, and white dwarf evolution and pulsations, was named the university's Distinguished Principal Investigator for Excellence in Research in 2014. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and was recently named interim vice provost for research and dean of graduate studies.
The funds will go towards a PlaneWave CDK700 telescope, an Andor iKon-L 936 CCD camera for scientific imaging, and associated equipment which will be placed at the A&M-Commerce observatory located five miles south of campus. The facility will be operable not only on-site, but also remotely and semi-autonomously using ACP Observatory Control Software. “We'll be able to queue up observing requests not only from our research students, but also students and teachers at regional high schools and community colleges,” explained Dr. Wood.
“The new telescope will also be used in open houses, allowing the public the chance to see the telescope in action,” said Planetarium/Observatory Director and new interim physics and astronomy department head Dr. Kent Montgomery. “We will also open it up to community colleges and high schools to be able to use it to improve their own astronomy classes and programs.”
A&M-Commerce and Texas A&M University-College Station house the only physics and astronomy departments in the A&M System that offer a graduate program and an independent B.S program in physics. The new facility will allow the department to pursue research projects that require long-term time series monitoring of photometrically-variable astronomical targets. It will also create opportunities for meaningful collaborations with astronomers both nationally and internationally. Additionally, the new facility will help grow A&M-Commerce's undergraduate astronomy and physics program and significantly strengthen the graduate program.