Faculty & Staff

Dr. W. Lee Powell Jr.

Dr. W. Lee Powell Jr.

Assistant Professor & Planetarium Director
Physics & Physical Science
Bruner Hall, 219
(308) 865-8277
powellwl@unk.edu

OBSERVATIONAL ASTRONOMY

  • I am working on mapping the structure of the Milky Way, particularly substructure in the third quadrant and the anti-center direction. The nature and origin of this substructure is still unclear. I make photometry observations to explore the stellar populations present and to identify targets for future spectroscopic observations. Much of the observations must be made from the Southern Hemisphere. I have used telescopes for this work at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) near La Serena, Chile."
  • RR Lyrae Variable Stars
  • I am also observing a large sample of suspected RR Lyrae stars in the halo of the Milky Way. These stars were identified using a novel technique developed in the calibration of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey blue star spectra. In the past four years I have taken seven undergraduate students to McDonald Observatory in West Texas to observe these stars. In over 30 nights we have confirmed over two dozen stars as variable. In the future I want to look for substructure evident in the distribution of these stars. I also plan to make follow up observations on the confirmed variables to measure the parameters of their pulsation.
  • Astronomy - As my research suggests, I am most interested in teaching astronomy. I served as the NASA Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) Texas Regional Teaching Exchange Coordinator from 2010 to 2012. I am interested in interactive engagement teaching techniques, and have led workshops on the topic. I hope to offer a class in astrophysics soon.
  • Physics - I have taught upper level physics courses in the past (E&M and Statistical Mechanics). I am really enjoy teaching non-majors as well. I love making science accessible to people that were afraid of the subject when the entered the class. I will be teaching a general non-major physics class in the Fall of 2012. I will also be teaching a physics of music class. As a musician, I am particularly excited about this class.
I have several hobbies that keep me occupied. I have a wife (she is a science teacher too) and two kids. They keep me busy. I also sing a cappella music (mostly in the barbershop style). I play guitar, saxophone, and a (very) little banjo. I love the outdoors: fishing, hunting, and working with my French brittanies. My undergraduate degree in English didn’t completely break my passion for reading and writing. I also play tennis and golf poorly.