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Travis Rector
Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Anchorage Dept. of Physics & Astronomy

Research Interests:
"My primary area of research is studying active galactic nuclei (AGN) using radio, optical and X-ray telescopes (and I've done some near-IR and UV work as well). I am also the PI on a large effort to search for classical novae in Local Group galaxies. That project has been going on for almost ten years now. I also do some star formation work."

Description of Travis's E/PO activities:
"There are two areas that my E/PO work has focused on. On the EO side, I have been working for eight years on "research-based science education." The goal is to give students the opportunity to participate in authentic research. Unfortunately, science is usually taught as a well-culled body of facts, for fear of teaching students something that later turns out to be wrong. As a result, students don't understand that science is really a process of learning, and that is what makes research hard and exciting. On the PO side, I create images from data obtained with research telescopes, primarily with NOAO and Gemini facilities. The goal is to create images that convey science in an intuitive way, and yet are attractive to look at."

Why do you like doing E/PO?
"I think every scientist likes to talk about their research. Over the years I've worked hard to try to convey what we know from our research into something that's meaningful to non-scientists. It feels great to see students working on a research project, and developing the same commitment to their work as we have. And few things feel better than getting an email or letter from a stranger about the effect one of my images had on them. The ultimate goal is a better understanding of how we fit into the universe, and a greater comfort with that place."

Why do you think participation in Education and Public Outreach is important for scientists?
"E/PO is just as important to the dissemination of knowledge as publishing in professional research journals. Why is Hubble a household name? It's not the science - its the E/PO. Over the years E/PO has been something that people have done out of a sense of personal commitment, with little compensation or support for those efforts. Fortunately the situation has improved tremendously as its value has become more recognized."

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