Highlander Highlights: Week of October 30, 2023

Every two weeks, Highlander Highlights shares with readers some of the extraordinary research and accomplishments happening on and off campus through the tireless work and curiosity of our students and faculty. 

Senior’s research in Chile leads to national conference presentation

In January, Garrett O’Hara walked through a valley in central Chile, snapping pictures of boulders with his cell phone.

The senior geology major from Burke, Virginia, was traveling through the Patagonian region of South America with Associate Professor of Geology Ryan Sincavage and colleagues from the University of Colorado-Denver. They were part of a field excursion to collect data to further study the catastrophic glacial-outburst flood there in 1989.

O’Hara planned to pair his phone photos with images being gathered by drones to help calculate the mass of various boulders in the valley. “This will help us make calculations about the discharge of the flood as well as patterns of sediment dispersal and deposition during such events,” explained Sincavage.

O’Hara’s project from the excursion “involved 3D modeling several boulders to get their volume and subsequently mass,” he said. “Comparing the mass of the boulders to their distance from the glacial lake, you can calculate the magnitude of the flood as it went down the valley.”

O’Hara presented his findings in a poster session in mid-October at the Geological Society of America Connects national conference in Pittsburgh.

In December, O’Hara and Sincavage will present posters on the topic at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Professor of Physics Rhett Herman and Geospatial Science Assistant Professor Naveen Joseph will also attend the meeting where more than 25,000 scientists from more than 100 countries are expected to attend.


Garrett O'Hara

An ‘outstanding professional development experience’ for pre-service math teachers

Last week, about 6,000 teachers attended the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Washington, D.C. It’s annually the largest gathering of math educators in the United States.

Among those gathered for the conference were five Radford University students and pre-service teachers: undergraduate students Mia Bialobreski, Sarah Sadler and Charlene Galvez, and graduate students Reagan Davis and Kalyn Stiles.

“The NCTM conference was very engaging and informational, and I think anyone who is going into math education should go to a conference like this to better understand things that happen in the classroom,” said Bialobreski, a senior from Blacksburg, Virginia. “The conference really opened my eyes to math education and how the teaching of mathematics can be engaging for any age due to the fact any topic in math can be reiterated in many different ways.”

Agida Manizade, professor of Mathematics and Statistics and interim associate dean of Radford’s College of Graduate Studies and Research, secured external funding for the undergraduate students to attended the conference. The Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics (VCTM) sponsored the graduate students. Manizade serves as VCTM’s president.

“Our Radford University students and pre-service teachers had an outstanding professional development experience,” Manizade said. “As a President of the Virginia Council, I do my best to engage Radford University undergraduate and graduate students with professional development opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and networking experiences that help them grow professionally.”


The numbers are through the roof!

Do you know how many people watch shows at the Radford University Planetarium?

The numbers are astronomical!

OK, perhaps that’s a bit hyperbolic, but each year, thousands enter the 55-seat domed theater space to travel virtually through the cosmos. The planetarium is the center for astronomy and space science education for Radford University and the surrounding area, offering regular free public shows while also hosting numerous K-12 and community groups.

From the beginning of January through the end of October, the planetarium has welcomed more than 4,700 visitors for 190 separate shows. That number includes 1,175 school kids, teachers and chaperons for Science Days hosted by the Artis College of Science and Technology.

Since the planetarium inside the Center for the Sciences opened in the spring of 2016, 29,132 people have oohed and aahed at the marvel at the wonders of the universe at 1,294 separate shows.

But that’s only part of the story.

The original Radford University Planetarium operated on the ground floor of Curie Hall and Professor of Physics Rhett Herman began offering public shows there in September 1999. Combing the two locations, the old and the new, more than 70,000 people have visited the Radford University campus for shows.

Popular current shows such as “Big Astronomy” and “Worlds of Curiosity” have the planetarium firmly on pace to welcome more than 5,000 visitors for 2023.

“As President [Bret] Danilowicz said when announcing the new brand identity, the planetarium is a big part of both the university and the surrounding community,” Herman said. “Through our Science Days outreach and other public shows and community events, we are happy to be a major resource for science education in the New River Valley and surrounding areas.”

The planetarium is “not only an educational tool that benefits astronomy students in their studies, but it also fosters a connection between the science community and the general public,” said Jordan Eagle ’16, who once operated the Radford Planetarium and is now a NASA postdoctoral program fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Engaging with our broader communities is something we should never take for granted and should always be one of our top priorities as scientists.”

Plus, Herman notes, “It’s about the coolest work-study job on campus. In fact, the only reason we have so many shows is that the vast majority are run by enthusiastic work-study students.”


A place for graduate students to study, relax and build community

Ask and you shall receive.

“Two months ago, some of our graduate students mentioned that they didn't have and needed a lounge space designated for graduate students,” said Agida Manizade, associate dean of Radford’s College of Graduate Studies and Research. “So, we created a small lounge at Whitt Hall.”

The space is important because it gives graduate students a “unique space to relax with a cup of coffee and connect with other graduate students between classes through games, puzzles and conversation,” said Emma Curtis of Cleveland Tennessee, who is in her second year of the counselor education program on the clinical mental health counseling track. “Previously we didn't have a designated space just for us, so it was difficult to interact with students at our same educational stage.”

The lounge is vital for community-building and graduate student success, said Kalyn Stiles of Springfield, Virginia.

“It provides a great space on days like today,” said the first-year grad student in the Counsellor Education department, “when I just wanted somewhere comfortable to complete my work.”


Nov 3, 2023
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761