Andria in front of Niagara FallsAndria Schwortz

University of Wyoming
Physics and Astronomy Dept

Office Location: PS 103-C (middle office in the grad suite)
Office Hours: MW 12:00pm-1:00pm (other times by appointment)
Email: aschwort-AT-uwyo-DOT-edu
Phone / Google Voice: 8-OBAFGKM-L1
Resume: PDF

My Teaching

Spring 2014

PHYS 1210-01 (Engineering Studio Physics I)
MWF 10:00-11:40am
Dr. K's Course Webpage

ASTR 1050 Labs
Tu 1:10-3:00pm, Tu 7:10-9:00pm
Lab handouts

Launchpad 2013

Launchpad is a week-long astronomy workshop for published sci-fi authors - you can think of it as an astrocamp for writers! :) This year I had the honor to serve as one of the instructors for the first time. The files for some of the topics I am covered (as well as the syllabus) can be downloaded below.


NES AAPT Spring 2014

Title: A Review of Educational Computer Simulations for Interactive Lecture Demonstrations in Introductory Astronomy Survey Courses
Authors: Schwortz, Andria C.; French, D.A.; Gutierrez, Joseph V.; Sanchez, Richard L.; Slater, Timothy F.; Tatge, Coty
Poster, References
Despite many introductory astronomy survey course instructors' seeming reluctance to readily adopt new educational technology, the reality is that many of them are already unknowingly doing so by projecting PowerPoint presentations, showing classroom videos, leading planetarium and observatory tours, showing desktop planetarium simulation software, and using online homework systems (e.g., MasteringAstronomy). Much more prevalent in the domain of physics teaching, physics instructors have more readily adopted supplements to traditional lecture by using interactive lecture demonstrations (ILDs). Unfortunately, the nature of conventional astronomy teaching has made some of the more widespread physics teaching innovations rather difficult to easily implement in ASTRO 101 classrooms. As a first step toward systematic development of ILDs in ASTRO 101, a review of education research summarizing the effectiveness and practical realities of adopting educational computer simulations (ECSs) and ILDs specifically in astronomy reveals that initial development efforts require a more targeted and purposeful effort to increase adoption and effectiveness in an astronomy lecture setting.

Recent Works

Educational Computer Simulations
Style: Literature review
Course: Cognition in Math and Science Education (term paper)
Utilizing technology in the classroom is "all the rage" these days - this is common knowledge in not only educational circles but also in the public consciousness. But contrary to the popular opinion of this being a modern phenomenon, both computer and physical simulations have been used for educational purposes for longer than my lifetime. Lunetta and Hoffstein (1981) cite Glazer as studying the use of simulations in military training as early as 1960. Both enthusiasm and criticism have followed, stemming from researchers, educators, learners, and the general public. It might be expected that in the intervening years many questions would have been settled about the educational use of technology, however as the power of computers has advanced (from mainframes the size of a room to iPhones that fit in a pocket) so too have the educational uses of computers. While studies of the use of technology have also advanced, there remains much to be investigated still.

Searching for NEOs in SDSS Stripe 82.
Style: Original research
Course: Data Mining in Large Astronomical Surveys (term paper)
Near-Earth objects (NEOs) can pose a significant threat to life on Earth, depending upon their probability of impact, size, and how long ahead of a potential impact they are discovered. Mining SDSS data provides a nice opportunity for us to expand the number of NEOs identified without requiring additional equipment or time on existing telescopes. Herein I propose a method of mining SDSS DR8 coadd data and time dependent SDSS Stripe 82 data to discover fast-moving asteroids. This method results in the identification of an upper limit of 233 candidate NEOs within Stripe 82 posessing velocities in the range 0.5<v<2.5 deg/day.

Waterworlds: Structures / Properties and Discoveries of Ocean Planets.
Style: Literature review
Course: Exoplanets (term paper)
In recent years a number of surveys, including the MEarth project (located in Arizona and run out of Cambridge, MA), and the COROT and Kepler space missions, have been dedicated to the discovery of extrasolar planets through transits. The properties (including structure and composition) and formation histories of many of the newly discovered exoplanets remains an open question. Driven by the search for an Earth-like planet, we have discovered a class of super-Earths or sub-Neptunes which may not fall into either of the traditional categories of terrestrial or gas giant planets, but instead form a new category of ocean planets. In this review paper, I outline the history of this eld by looking at major theoretical breakthroughs and outlining recent discoveries of candidate ocean planets.


My research advisor is Dr. Tim Slater, of the CAPER team.  

My research is on using educational computer simulations (ECSs) as interactive lecture demonstrations (ILDs) in introductory astronomy lecture courses - see the lit review and NES-AAPT 2014 poster presentation above for an idea of what I'm currently looking into.

Putting this into every day English, physics faculty have long been using demos in class, however astronomy faculty don't really do so, perhaps because it's hard to bring a star into the classroom. :) Astronomy faculty have however been using computer simulations to teach, it's just that they usually do so as homework or during in a lab setting. My project is to adapt existing computer simulations so that they fit the model of how we do demos in physics, including developing lesson plans for the faculty and student handouts on which they can reocrd their predictions.


Part I (Comps) Exams on Undergrad Physics - a compilation of multiple years' worth of Part I exams. Original collection via Mohammad Soltani, with more recent additions by myself. Arranged in roughly reverse chronological order (with most recent first).

Part II (Quals) Exams on Grad Physics and Astronomy - a compilation of multiple years' worth of Part II exams. Original collection via Mohammad Soltani, with more recent additions by myself. Arranged in roughly reverse chronological order (with most recent first).

About Me

Originally a native of New York City, I have spent time in rural western New York state, assorted parts of Pennsylvania, Tucson AZ, and most recently hail from metro Boston MA.  

I am currently a graduate student in the UWyo Physics & Astronomy department as well as being on leave of absence from a tenured position as Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA.  

In my free time (hah!) I play casual video games, listen to sci-fi/fantasy audiobooks, knit, play with my pet bird, and most years I participate in the MIT Mystery Hunt in a leadership role within the team Grand Unified Theory of Love.