July 19, 2011—UW-River Falls alumna Theresa Paulsen, MSE '07, was one of six teachers selected to work with scientists aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) during NASA research flights this past spring. This was the first team of educators selected to participate in SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.
The program, designed to enable educators to join SOFIA's scientific research and take that experience back to their schools and communities, is a unique opportunity for NASA to enhance science and math education across the country.
Paulsen says her June 3-4 all-night flight aboard SOFIA can only be described as a field trip of a lifetime.
"I am very grateful that NASA promotes STEM education by providing teachers with such incredible field experiences. During my trip I met dozens of NASA employees as well as German scientists who obviously were passionate about their work," says Paulsen. "They were very willing to share their science and their personal stories in order to help me inspire youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math."
"I will forever be able to tell my students that I was there when Terry Herter of Cornell University captured the highest resolution infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy while flying at 43,000 feet aboard the SOFIA aircraft," she says.
Paulsen is a teacher in the Mellen School District. In September she and another member of "Sofia 6 " will be working with the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, sharing the experience with educators around the region.
Paulsen encourages others to apply for the next round as NASA selects teams of two teachers to fly on SOFIA in 2012. Interested teams can follow the program on the SOFIA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Facebook page.
Left to right: Coral Clark, SOFIA education programs manager; Theresa Paulsen; and Marita Beard, another teacher in the "SOFIA 6" from San Jose, Calif.