ETSU appointed a new director of undergraduate research and creative projects on Jan. 1.
Richard Ignace is a native of northern Indiana who came to ETSU in 2003 to work in the department of physics and astronomy.
“In my mind, undergraduate research is fundamentally about career readiness,” Ignace said. “It’s a career-prep opportunity because there’s so much involved in managing your product.”
Ignace said his office acts as an outlet for students, helping them gather resources for research and creative projects and training them in the best methods to go about their project. Ignace received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in 1996, did a post-doctoral study in Scotland and worked at a couple universities before being attracted by the physics program at ETSU.
“There’s just this really big astronomy group [at ETSU],” Ignace said. “… Sometimes when you’re in astronomy and you join a physics and astronomy department, you can sometimes be insulated. You might be the only astronomer in a group of eight or 10.”
Most of Ignace’s research deals with stars and stellar astrophysics.
“The general area has to do with the fact that stars have winds or they possess an environment right around the star,” Ignace said. “Some stars actually have pancake discs of gas — so flat discs — and I try to understand those environments and their dynamics.”
Ignace said despite having a background primarily in scientific research, the methodology he has adopted as a scientist relates in part to the research conducted by students in various academic fields.
“I do come out of a science region of discipline, but it’s not so radically different to have research out of philosophy or humanities,” Ignace said. “There are more clear connections for me in terms of my background and experience.”
Ignace said understanding how to advise students in the performing arts will require a bit more time and energy.
“In terms of the performing arts, that’s where it’s a little bit different, and I am trying to understand a little bit about the intersection with that area,” Ignace said. “There’s still experimentation that takes place, even in the performing arts, even in studio art … but it is different from the research that I’m normally familiar with, and so, I’m going to draw on colleagues and on students to try to educate myself a bit better.”
Having risen to the position mid-year and still hefting his full teaching load, Ignace said he will probably use this semester to learn about the specifics of his new positions and experience the infrastructure left behind by Foster Levy, Ignace’s predecessor.
“Professor Levy … just did a phenomenal job under the program,” Ignace said. “The program has grown under his leadership. It’s grown numerically, but also in terms of the kinds of programs that they offer.”
Ignace believes research is one of the indelible experiences of a four-year college experience, he said.
“President Noland has been talking a great deal about the university experience and what a four-year college experience offers,” Ignace said. “One of those aspects is research. That tends to be distinctive for universities … there’s just a lot of wonderful things that this office helps to promote and be a resource for.”