Discover your local key to the stars |

Discover your local key to the stars

by Jeffrey Rogers

Have you ever felt like the stars or planets were aligned just for you or the collective good of society? Have you ever just had a perfect day that made you think there must have been some physical explanation for the events that took place? We try every day to explain the small things in life that make us happy; some accept that the lineup of objects in space is responsible for the events of life, namely astrologers.

Professor Robert Collier, science instructor and director of the new observatory at Western Nevada Community College, would be one person who would gladly point out the subtle flaws in such thinking. Preparation, a sense of independent thought and personal responsibility are important factors in Professor Collier’s life and career pursuits.

“One of my personal highlights was the opportunity to go to Antarctica,” he said. “Every step of the way was an adventure to test my hypothesis of – ultraviolet light could penetrate the layers of ice in the lakes of Antarctica.”

He was in the right position to take that opportunity rather than let happenstance or astrology give him a handout.

The most rewarding aspect of teaching says Professor Collier is just simply that through all the years he still enjoys the dynamics.

“So many students have never even looked into a telescope,” he said. “When you start talking about the phenomena of space, that seems to be the most mystifying to students. I remember when I was young and putting these lessons into context. What a thrill that was to me.

“Then to be able to communicate these principles to students year after year and share my excitement and understanding to the masses gives me the constant fire in the belly that keeps me going. I never teach the same curricula more than once, which means I’m always reading and looking for the fresh news that makes learning a joy to me and hopefully my students.”

Collier is enthusiastic about welcoming anyone into his classes.

“We teach to groups that are not all going to be scientists by and large,” he said. “They are taking these classes as an elective science course. I don’ t come up here and crunch numbers all day, but I try to inspire people to want to pick up an astronomy magazine and read with understanding. This is something you can do for the rest of your life even without holding a formal title. If a student comes into my classes with an inquisitive mind that is the most important piece of preparation I can impart to a student.

“If a student comes here with interest and a commitment to do their homework, then everything is perfect. They can learn a lot here. That is the kind of student I want in the astronomy department.”

Understanding the world around us is a wonderful source of happiness in our day-to-day lives. The events that happen in the observatory and Collier’s classes can inspire normal people to reach for the stars and accomplish things that have never been seen before.

It is about believing in uncommon ideals that can make life better. We are lucky to have at least one teacher who has the passion to impart what he knows and brew appreciation for what we have on our planet.

— Jeffrey Rogers is a student at WNCC.