Students are encouraged to take Astronomy class offered next semester

Faculty Profile – Dr. Grant Thompson

Oystein Fjeldberg, Staff Writer

Dr. Grant Thompson teaches the popular astronomy class at Wingate University, where students learn how to tell the time by the phase of the Moon, how stars move across the sky during the year, how our Solar System is held together, and why stars have different colors, along with an introduction to how the Universe works in general.

Dr. Thompson’s passion for astronomy developed early in his life. He grew up on a farm under clear skies, and what he saw during the nights fascinated him.“It was a combination of awe and ‘what’s going on?’” Dr. Thompson said. That awe has persisted to this day. “Astronomy is seemingly never-ending; you can always learn something that you didn’t already know.”

As a student he pursued this interest, and wrote his dissertation at the University of Kentucky on the center of galaxies, called Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). He wrote his dissertation there on the center of galaxies, called Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN).

These centers, AGNs, are usually extremely powerful black holes that the rest of the galaxy revolves around, and are among the most energetic things in the Universe. By studying how a galaxy as a whole and its central black hole impacts one another scientists can learn about how galaxies changed over time, and this gained knowledge can help us better understand how the Universe works.

Although there has been a good amount of research on AGNs in the last two decades, there are still unanswered questions. In his research, Dr. Thompson compared the light emitted from different types of AGNs. The project earned him his Ph.D. in astrophysics in 2012.

A few years later, during the summer of 2015, Dr. Thompson continued his research work on AGNs with the assistance from senior Alex Manzevitsch. They eventually found that the two types of AGNs actually seem to be the same, as the differences between them are merely caused by which way you’re looking at them; while we may have looked at one AGN from the side, we had looked at the other one head-on, which would give different results even if they were identical.

Dr. Thompson and Alex presented their results at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Orlando in January this year, and even though the research was “basic for an undergraduate project,” according to Dr. Thompson, their findings were “eye-opening for professional astronomers.”

Research has, however, not been the main focus of Dr. Thompson’s career. Ever since he graduated, Dr. Thompson has taught astronomy as a professor, trying to help students see how it affects their lives.

“I am so inspired by astronomy that I want other people to appreciate the science,” he said. “Everyone is looking down these days, looking at their phones, but I want them to look up at the sky.” As a teacher, his knowledge has come to good use. “Lots of people come into astronomy with misconceptions; I enjoy the wow-moments of students, when they begin to understand [something] for the first time,” he said.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Thompson is always looking for ways to improve himself as a teacher. He goes to state and national meetings in science education, where he seeks to pick up new teaching techniques to bring to the classroom.

Techniques that he has already incorporated into his astronomy class include computer simulations, quick response multiple choice quizzes, simple experiments to illustrate concepts, and handing out whiteboards to pairs of students who will use them to solve a problem.

The desire to teach astronomy also extends beyond his class, as he arranges public astronomy nights at least once each semester, typically at Campus Lake. He brings with him binoculars and telescopes for people to use, which are powerful enough to allow them to see the full shape of the planets in our Solar System, the moons and bands of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, nearby nebulae, and, if the conditions are good enough, certain galaxies (such as the Andromeda galaxy).

During the event he is available to whoever has questions, and he will often talk about the constellations spread across the night sky. “It’s more about just watching the sky, not lecturing,” Dr. Thompson said.

Anyone is welcome to join, and the attendance has normally been in the range of fifteen to twenty people; mostly students, but some non-student community members as well.

Edited by: Sara Gunter


Space Travel becomes reality

Better get your rockets ready…..its time for a space mission. 

Asherel Kaseorg, Staff Writer


Have you ever wished you could just leave this planet and go be a hermit for awhile? Good news- according to President Barack Obama, NASA has plans to send humans to Mars. Obama says, “We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030’s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.”

This is very exciting for anyone interested in space travel. Astrophysicist and Wingate University professor Dr. Grant Thompson says that while people used to be incredibly enthusiastic about the United States space endeavor, watching all the launches and landings, but many of the new generation have lost interest. Millions of people aren’t even aware that humans are in space right now, aboard the International Space Station.

The idea of traveling to Mars has gained more attention, though. Whether or not NASA will actually put humans on Mars in the 2030’s is arguable. Some people think there’s no way NASA can meet that deadline, while others say the deadline isn’t soon enough.

Dr. Thompson thinks we should return to the moon before we attempt to go to Mars. “It has been over four decades since we have set foot on the Moon, and we have so much to learn from our nearest astronomical neighbor.”

Thompson says. “Establishing a lunar base, an array of telescopes on the far side, and many other developments seem much more worth it than jumping the Moon to Mars.  At the same time, holding true to the 1960’s platform of showing great power and ability, perhaps we should shoot for more than the Moon, let’s shoot for Mars as a major goal to truly achieve interplanetary travel.”

Before arriving on Mars, NASA plans to test its systems on and around the moon, sending astronauts on spacewalks between 2018 and 2030. Along with NASA, there are several private companies also working to set foot on Mars. One of the more well-known programs is Mars One, which is based in the Netherlands and plans to begin unmanned robot setup missions to Mars in 2020, with one-way manned trips to Mars in 2027.

Another program, SpaceX, has even bigger plans. SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk announced that they aim to establish a million-person Mars colony in the next 50-100 years.

In September, they released their Interplanetary Transport System, which will be the most powerful rocket to date and will carry over 100 people. Not only is it extremely powerful and fast, making the trip in about 80 days, but it will also be a fun trip for the passengers.

It will have movie theaters, restaurants, and lecture halls. And unlike Mars One, there will be return trips. The ships will depart every 26 months, when Mars and Earth align near each other.

While it will certainly be a very long time before normal civilians are able to live on Mars, it will eventually be a necessity. “Humans need to be a multi planet species,”, says NASA. If humans only stay on Mars, we may follow the same fate as the dinosaurs.

Mars is a good planet to start with, because it is relatively similar to Earth. It has roughly the same day and night cycle, and it has water in the form of ice.

“I do think humans will get to Mars,” says Dr. Thompson. “How soon, I don’t know, but it will take centuries to develop and maintain living conditions suitable for extensive expeditions.” Hopefully, we’ll be able to watch the first flights happen with the same excitement that the moon landing gathered.

Edited by: Sara Gunter


Question of the Week: Who will win the World Series?

Baseball’s World Series starts tomorrow and the COM 220 News Writing class went out on campus today to see who was going to be paying attention to it. Will the winner be the Chicago Cubs or the Cleveland Indians? What do you think?

First, some great analysis from math professor Dr  Greg Bell, who spoke to class member Zeriq Lolar: 


Others are rooting for less analytical reasons:

Class members Delaney Smith and Kendall Sienon talked with finance major Chris Birozes from Suwanee, Ga. He said he’s only going to watch the Series because his roommate is. He said he’d like to see the Cubs win.



Here’s another Cubs fan, interviewed by Anthanee Doyle and Andrew Elliott:


Class members Jackson Kaplan and Rachael Robinson interviewed Matt Urbancyzk, graduate assistant for intramural and club sports. He thinks the Cubs are going to win because of superior pitching. “I(‘s the year to break the 107-year curse,” he said, referring to how it’s been since the Cubs won the World Series.


Here’s Ryan Brown, WU’s director of broadcasting and video services:




Wingate Bulldogs gear up to face Carson Newman Saturday

Football Season Recap

Tariah Harrell, Staff Writer 

Coach Joe Reich and the Wingate Bulldogs will make their way to Jefferson City, Tenn., at 1 p.m. this Saturday,  where they will take on the Carson-Newman Eagles. Carson-Newman has moved the ball successfully in the past years against the Bulldogs, and now the Bulldogs are eager to go head-to-head with them this weekend.

After week 7, the Wingate Bulldogs football team has an overall record of 6-1 and a conference record of 3-1. The Bulldogs took their first lost this season to the 2015 South Atlantic Conference champions, the Catawba Indians by a 48-26 score. 

This past week, the Bulldogs took on and beat their rival the Lenoir- Rhyne University Bears 49-6 without two of their star players running back Lawrence Pittman, and defensive back redshirt sophomore Kam Johnson who are both out with a season-ending injury.  During the Lenoir-Rhyne game this past Saturday, the Bulldogs also lost redshirt junior wide receiver Adam Riley II also to a now season-ending injury.

Wingate’s head football coach Joe Reich, who is in this 16th season as the Bulldog’s leader, feels that the team is adjusting due to the recent injuries that has occurred on their team. “The team is remarkably resilient” Reich says. “As much as we hate having those guys out, we have to have a ‘next man up’ mentality. LP and Adam would be the first to tell you that. Junior running back Blake Hayes has played two great games in LP’s absence. I feel really good about where we are at right now”.

The Bulldogs has been having a great season so far. Coach Reich feels that the season is going pretty well and he is liking how much effort they are putting into their practices. “The positives this season has to be effort, focus, and team energy. With those things, the wins will come along” Reich says. “As of negatives, those three injuries; it is tough to see those guys work that hard and not get to seem them finish”.

“The highlights from this season so far would simply just be being able to be with my brothers and teammates all year,” senior quarterback Kyle Johnson says. “As it is my last season, I have been trying to soak in every second with my team, and it has been so much fun. I am so lucky that my team has voted me as captain the last three years and have trusted me to help lead our team. I will never be apart of a brotherhood like this one for the rest of my life; there’s nothing like it” Johnson added.

Preparing for an overnight trip for the game on Saturday at Carson-Newman, sophomore defensive back Cameron Mattison, who is a transfer from Toledo University in Ohio, says that preparing for this game was not the least of their troubles.  “Nothing changes from week to week to prepare for a game” Mattison says. “We go in each week with the same mindset. The only thing that changes is the game plan for each team”.

 Johnson and  Mattison both agreed that the coaching staff prepares the team well by explaining how to stop each team. “We just go out and try to execute”, Mattison adds. “Mentally, we all have our different ways to prepare for a game”.

As of right now, the Bulldogs are tied with Catawba for second place in the SAC behind Newberry.  “We try not to look too far into conference standings or ranks” Johnson says. “It does not change how we are going to prepare or play on Saturdays. We know that we will face good teams week by week, so we understand that we have to continue to work as hard as we can to win. I feel great about this week’s game against Carson-Newman”.

As head coach Joe Reich is also making sure his team is motivated. “It is always a challenge to keep it fresh and to keep the guys focused,” Reich mentioned. “We as a staff spend a good deal of time talking about that and how we can change things up every once in awhile. We also put it on the players because great teams know how to finish. Now it is that time to show that. One game at a time and focus on the task at hand” says Reich.

School bus driver shortage becomes problem in Union County

School Board Members set to discuss issues for parents and students in UCPS system. 

Sara Gunter, Staff Writer

Here in Union County there are over 10 public schools in the School System. This many schools means a high number of students, 31,000 to be exact. With that many schools and students comes a potential for problems.

At the monthly school board of education meeting commissioners sat down to discuss the many items that were of concern to the public.

Gary Sides, school board chairmen, voiced his concerns on a problem he noticed in the current school system. This problem being the school bus shortage.

“The Union County Public Schools Transportation Department currently operates 315 Regular Route School Buses. The buses are scheduled to run nearly 29,000 miles daily,” written on Union County Board Website.

Currently there are 16 vacancies and 8 drivers that are on family, medical leave of absence. This means there are 24 absences when it comes to school bus drivers in Union County.

Transportation Specialist for the Western Region of Union County Schools, Simone Sowell says, “these absences will be filled very soon. Our main priority is the students; we are taking the necessary steps in order to make sure each student is able to come to school in whatever means necessary.”

This means that the students are suffering in ways that the school board might not share. Jane Frankie, parent of a Union County Elementary School Student describes  how this is going to affect her student.

“My student has to get on the bus at 7:00 am over an hour early to get on the bus, she sits next to a student that has been on the bus since 6:30am. To me that’s ridiculous. There is a student that has been sitting on a bus for two hours before school starts in order to go to school.”

With growing concerns coming from parents, there are sure to be lots of comments and concerns prepared for the next meeting. The school board plans on discussing many problem and concerns in the upcoming meeting Nov. 1.


UCPS makes changes to mobile app

Union County Public Schools Launches New and Improved Mobile App

Kendall Sienon, Staff Writer

Union County, N.C. — Finally, connectivity has reached Union County Public Schools in the 21st century. The new and approved UCPS app is now available for students, parents, teachers, staff and administration and it’s FREE! This will allow users to stay connected and up to date on what’s going on with Union County Schools.

This new app has been updated to allow users to customize it by selecting the school(s) they would like to follow. There is a new Activity Stream feature that pulls all social media posts from all the schools. The News feature shows all the stories that are relevant through out the county.

Push notifications allow users to receive alerts on upcoming events or important announcements. This will most likely be most beneficial to parents and students because they won’t have to search through the app to get important information; it will show up right on their screen. But perhaps the best new feature is the Tip Line; this allows users to submit tips to the school or the district in categories such as bullying, kudos, safety, and other feedback.

Becky Swiger, Union County Public Schools Web Communications Coordinator, believes that the new app will “increase access to information because of its ease in functionality and quick access to materials”. The design resembles that of social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

When the app is downloaded and ready to open, the first thing it asks is to select what school(s) that one is interest in. The first page shows the top stories of the county. Other features are set up in an easy, organized fashion in icons that connect a user to exactly where they need to go. Some of these icons include the Calendar, Sports, Lunch Menus, Transportation, Parent Information, Directory, K12 Payment Center, the Tip Line, Settings and plenty other useful information.

Swiger is the administrator of the app and has the ability to customize the icons within the app, how they look, what they link to, how they are ordered, and what feeds are being pulled in. The app was coded and provided by Blackboard. Currently, there are 4,963 downloads.

Edited by: Sara Gunter

Forest Hills Teacher Recognized by UCPS Board of Education

Teacher brings new ideas from Washington after receiving an award. 

Robert Gay, Staff Writer

Lauren Baucom, a science teacher at Forest Hills High School, addressed Union County Board of Education members last week during the monthly school board meeting on Oct. 4. Baucom, was present at the meeting to receive recognition from board members after being selected to receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science teaching (PAEMST).

She used this time to challenge board members to consider policy implementations that addressed ‘inequities in the classroom’ following her visit to Washington D.C. during the National Science Foundation Next Generation Forum.

“We know that not all schools are created equal and not all classes are created equal,” said Baucom. “I see that in my own classes when I have 36% Whites and 33% African-American enrolled in a mathematics course yet those numbers drastically change in my Advanced Placement Calculus when it becomes 68% White and 14% for both Latino and African-American. We have to ask ourselves why that is.”

She encouraged the board to consider the importance of active learning in the classroom, job ready computer science skills, and following a STEM education model that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

Board members seemed especially receptive to Baucom’s remarks at the meeting, which was held at Cuthbertson High School. “We want to thank you for putting our children first and bringing innovation and passion into the classroom,” said Melissa Merrell, UCPS Board of Education Member.

Baucom has been teaching math for eight years, three of which have been in the Union County School system. Last year, she served as the Forest Hills Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the UCPS Teacher of the Year.

Staff writer Gabe Kromah contributed to this story

Edited by: Sara Gunter