Public 4-Year Schools

TCNJ’s New Telescope Can Examine Exoplanets, Galaxies, and Quasars

The Department of Physics recently installed a new 27-inch telescope to strengthen its observational astronomy capabilities and engage more undergraduates in coursework and research experiences.

The TCNJ Observatory has two domes, each with a large, pier-mounted telescope.

Two pieces were lifted into the north dome by crane: the main telescope and its mount weigh in at 1,500 pounds—about the size of a full-grown male Holstein cow—and the telescope “cage” weighs in at 100 pounds.

The PlaneWave Corrected Dall-Kirkham 700 0.7m telescope and Andor Extended Range iKon-L 936 BEX2-DD CCD Camera will allow students and faculty to achieve high-resolution, scientifically accurate images and conduct high-resolution photometry and spectroscopy of a wide range of celestial objects.

TCNJ’s Physics Department ranks 2nd nationally for the number of graduates with physics teacher certifications among all U.S. colleges and universities.

The TCNJ Observatory is open on Monday through Thursday evenings from 8–10 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters. Student observatory technicians run these sessions.

The American Institute of Physics ranks TCNJ’s Physics Department in the top 1% nationally for physics graduates among 496 non-PhD granting institutions in the U.S., and in the top 5% nationally among all 751 PhD and non-PhD granting institutions in U.S.

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STEM Building Construction on Track
Students Earn 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Asteroids in our solar system are another area of research interests that will now be possible to study with the new telescope.

In addition to the equipment in the north and south domes, several portable 6-inch and 8-inch telescopes are used on the rooftop observation deck and on Quimby’s Prairie for large-scale stargazing events, including the Astronomy Club’s semesterly “star party,” where students, faculty, staff, and friends come to observe the moon, planets, and star clusters.

A glass-enclosed forum (center) will join the new STEM Building (right) to the existing Science Complex.

TCNJ’s STEM Building Construction on Track

The construction of TCNJ’s STEM building is on track for completion this summer with a ribbon-cutting ceremony being planned for the fall.

The 89,000-square-foot project, which uses funds from the Building Our Future Bond and the Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Bond, has been designed from the ground up to facilitate a fresh, multifaceted approach to​ STEM research, teaching, and learning.

Highlights of the state-of-the-art building include the computer science faculty-student collaborative research suite, a robotics laboratory, a high-performance scientific computing cluster, and a mechanical engineering design studio.

The 26,300-square-foot Chemistry Addition will house a multidisciplinary super laboratory suite that will include synthetic, multi-purpose, instrumentation, dry, and prep labs. This combination will allow for seamless transitions between computational, experimental, and analytical activities.

In addition, the building will house a suite of two organic chemistry labs, with storage rooms and a prep lab, and dedicated study spaces.

A glass-enclosed Forum will join the new STEM Building with the existing Biology Building, creating a unified interdisciplinary STEM Complex from the discipline-specific buildings that currently exist. A flexible two-story student commons with café, tables, and soft seating, the Forum will function as a campuswide “living room,” allowing for cross-disciplinary interaction in a casual, creative setting.

The STEM building will connect TCNJ students with the synergy and tools of STEM learning in the
21st century and ensure graduates begin their careers fully integrated into the collaborative environments embraced by today’s innovators.

TCNJ Students Earn 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program is one of the most competitive sources of support for students in STEM fields. The vast majority of recipients are first- and second-year graduate students, but four TCNJ seniors made the list last month when the NSF announced its 2017 awardees:

Rebecca Santorella
Major: mathematics
Research interest: applied mathematics
Grad school: Brown University



Em Schnorr
Major: physics
Research interest: geosciences/glacial seismology
Grad school: University of California, Santa Cruz



Tanya Townsend
Major: chemistry
Research interest: chemical catalysis
Grad school: Yale University



Shirley Wang
Major: psychology
Research interest: clinical science
Grad school: Harvard University



The fellowship is worth a total of $138,000 over three years, including a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance.

All four students have been involved in research projects with faculty mentors at both TCNJ and at host institutions through the NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program, and each feels strongly that the preparation they received at TCNJ gave them a leg up on their peers from other schools.

“We don’t have grad students at TCNJ, so you’re doing the work, not helping a grad student with theirs,” says Townsend.

“The research experiences at TCNJ are beyond incredible,” says Wang, whose research on eating disorders was just submitted for publication to International Journal of Eating Disorders.

William McDermott ’15, now in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received an honorable mention.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become lifelong leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt.