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Qais Akbar Omar (GRS’16), a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program, has published a much-praised memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story. He recalls how the violence and tumult of civil war jolted his family, who, despite losing relatives, their home, and possessions, continued to nurture his wish to attend a university.

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Andrew West Named 2013 Cottrell Scholar

March 14th, 2013

Assistant Professor of Astronomy Andrew West was among this year’s 13 recipients of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) Cottrell Scholar grants. This year’s recipients will share in grants totalling $975,000.

The Cottrell grants recognize excellence in science teaching. Cottrell Scholars receive $75,000 each in recognition of their scientific research as well as their dedication to teaching. The awards are made to early-career science educators in the physical sciences and related fields. Only about 10 percent of those who apply for this award are approved by RCSA’s rigorous peer-review process.

Originality, feasibility, and the prospect for significant fundamental advances to science are the main criteria for judging the candidates’ research, while contributions to education, especially at the undergraduate level, aspirations for teaching, and the candidates’ proposed strategies to achieve educational objectives are factors in assessing their teaching plans.

The newly named Cottrell Scholars join 251 Cottrell Scholars at more than 115 colleges and universities. Cottrell Scholars are also members of the Cottrell Scholars Collaborative, a network of scholar educators who meet annually to share their methods to increase the retention of undergraduate science majors.

West was recognized for his research on very low-mass (VLM) stars. While VLM stars are among the least visible items in the Milky Way, astronomers have found they are nevertheless extremely common and therefore a major source of ordinary matter in our galaxy.

The education portion of West’s project involves creating a formal outreach program, the BU Pre-Major Program. The goal is to recruit first-year underrepresented students and expose them to research, provide them with valuable mentoring, as well as social contacts among their peers, and ultimately increase the number of students majoring in STEM fields. Such an approach builds on West’s personal experience with diversity programming and directly addresses what is perhaps the most critical transition point in the educational pipeline – the transition from high school to college.

Founded in 1912, RCSA is America’s first foundation dedicated wholly to science.

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