Andrea Kunder encourages students to reach for the stars

Amanda Chappell, Staff Writer

 

In the last issue of The Belltower, we introduced three new faculty here at Saint Martin’s University. However, there were other additions to the staff that will contribute just as much to the campus community during their time. Over the summer, the physics department expanded by hiring Andrea Kunder, Ph.D., to their team.

Kunder found herself at our beautiful campus this summer, as she was eagerly searching for job positions in the Pacific Northwest. So far, Kunder has loved being a part of Saint Martin’s. The campus dynamic and class sizes give her the opportunity to get to know each of her students. “You lose interaction with professors on a big campus,” Kunder said, “I was looking for something a little more close-knit, and Saint Martin’s is just that.”

Kunder attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., where she earned her doctorate in physics and astronomy. After graduating from Dartmouth, Kunder took her studies to La Serena, Chile, where she had the opportunity to further her research at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. After spending four years in South America, Kunder then ventured to Germany.

While in Potsdam, Germany, Kunder furthered her research at the Leibniz Institute für Astropysik (AIP) where she continued to study the motion of stars and how they act as clues to determine how the galaxy was formed. She began this research before landing in Chile, and has contined working on it.

Kunder took her first astronomy class as an undergrad at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., and it was then that she discovered her love for the subject. “I was amazed at how big the universe was and how much exploring still needs to be done,” Kunder said, “I have always loved to travel and explore, and the universe is the ultimate place to explore.” Kunder was a chemistry major before she switched to physics.

This semester, Kunder is teaching an introduction to astronomy course, where she has the opportunity to share her passion with curious students. When asked if any students have approached her wanting to dive into the subject more, she replied, “no, but a student from my upper level astronomy course will be presenting work they have been doing at the Murdock Conference.”

“I think most of the students in our intro class are just taking it to fulfill their science credit. I don’t think they were anticipating how hard it would be, but we can’t make a star in the lab so we have to first gain a basic concept of physics to interpret the subject.” Kunder commented on the introduction to astronomy class.

In the near future, Kunder hopes to build a research group with students, so she can incorporate them into her own research. This may also increase the chances of getting more students involved in the physics and astronomy programs at Saint Martin’s.

Students interested in taking a science class other than biology or chemistry should consider taking a physics class with Kunder. You never know where your passions may lie.

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