ETSU’s Dr. Beverly Smith is an intergalactic galaxy astronomer. This means that she studies the interactions between galaxies.
Simply put, galaxies move, and when they get close to one another, their shapes get distorted. Her research is trying to figure out why this happens and how galaxies evolve over their lifetime.
Recently she helped the department of Physics and Astronomy receive a $38,310 grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the formation of dwarf galaxies. The grant will also help to fund undergraduate student involvement on the project.
Aside from research, Smith’s favorite part of her job is working with students on their research projects. She enjoys seeing the students finish their projects and present them.
She’s received a couple of different grants over the years from NASA designed to support student research. She works with students over the summer to do research projects which sometimes lead into the school year.
“Any student can do a research project; it’s not just for honors students,” said Smith.
Smith grew up in Connecticut with mathematicians as parents.
“Since both of my parents were teachers, becoming a teacher was only natural,” Smith said.
Her undergraduate degree is in physics and her graduate degree is in astronomy. She started teaching physics and astronomy at ETSU in 1999.
Over the last couple of years, she has been working on recruiting more physics majors to enter the teaching profession. There is a shortage of high school physics teachers in this region of the country.
“A lot of high schools don’t offer physics. It’s very hard for schools to find someone who is qualified to teach physics,” she said.
She has received a grant from the American Physical Society that allows physics majors to visit high schools and present their projects to the students. This gives students a small taste of what the classroom environment is like.Other than her project’s studies, one of Smith’s goals is to make a scholarship that allows science and math majors to receive their masters of arts in teaching in one year and for free.
It’s important for the sciences and maths to excel beyond the college level, and Smith aims to see this objective to the end.