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Chip Kobulnicky Makes a Difficult Subject Enjoyable

April 27, 2015
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Chip Kobulnicky

Extremely passionate about teaching, Chip Kobulnicky brings an unmatched level of energy to the classroom. His enthusiasm and desire for his students to do well have earned him the University of Wyoming’s John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award.

Other Ellbogen winners are Tyler Fall, assistant lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies; and Courtney McKim, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Professional Studies.

Kobulnicky’s charismatic and energetic approach to teaching inspires a desire to learn in his students.

“After spending only one semester with the professor, I can already say that he easily made the list of my all-time favorite teachers,” wrote one student, who took one of Kobulnicky’s classes as a freshman. “His class was a unique, challenging and very enjoyable experience.”

For many students, taking a difficult subject, like physics, can be a daunting challenge, but Kobulnicky’s teaching style puts them at ease.

“I was nervous because I knew it would be a tough class and didn’t have prior education in the subject,” wrote another student. “However, Professor Kobulnicky’s welcoming personality created a learning environment that helped me succeed. He made it much more enjoyable to learn. He genuinely cares about each student’s success, not only in physics, but in their future goals and lives.”

He also works to ensure his students are given opportunities to take full advantage of UW’s educational resources. One student noted, “I can’t tell you much about Chip’s current research goals, but I know that he is happy to take along any aspiring undergraduate to see what he does with our amazing equipment here at UW. He gives students a unique and helpful insight into the world of astronomical research.”

Class preparation and interaction with everyone in the room have earned his students’ admiration.

“He gave very thorough, clear lectures, and would distribute a copy of the very same notes he lectured from at the end of a section,” says Rachel Smullen, a graduate student at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory who had taken Kobulnicky’s “Introduction to Astrophysics” and “Observational Techniques and Methods” courses. “I thought this, in particular, was an outstanding technique. We had to take notes ourselves to help with homework, but we never had the excuse of incomplete notes when it came to studying for a test.”

For the larger Wyoming community, Kobulnicky has done an amazing job with reaching out to middle-school students. For the past 13 years, he has directed Wyoastrocamp, a 10-day on-campus science program for 50 middle-school students. The campers are kept extremely busy with engaging activities, from GPS-assisted campus scavenger hunts, to research projects that use UW’s two research-grade telescopes, to testing for signs of life in soil samples taken during mountain hikes.

Kobulnicky joined the UW faculty in 2002, was promoted to associate professor in 2008 and, in 2014, was named professor and observatory director. He received a B.S. degree in physics and astronomy (1991) at the University of Iowa, and earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics (1997) at the University of Minnesota.

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