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PR # 249 May 16, 2008


Dr. Wilhelmus (Wil) van der Veen of Edison, director of the Science Education Institute at the New Jersey Astronomy Center (NJACE), has received the 2008 Thomas J. Brennan Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

The award was given for exceptional achievement related to the teaching of astronomy at the high school level. NJACE is located at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in North Branch.

Dr. van der Veen has developed 16 different astronomy workshops to provide training for New Jersey teachers. His 200-plus sessions have resulted in the training of more than 4,000 New Jersey teachers. As a result, many of these teachers are requesting more extensive training for entire groups of grade-level teachers. This growing movement has initiated partnerships with school districts throughout the state.

Dr. van der Veen is the director of Project ASTRO and Family ASTRO programs in New Jersey, housed at the New Jersey Astronomy Center at RVCC. He has developed and presented hundreds of workshops in astronomy, general science and inquiry-based learning. Since its inception in 1998, Project ASTRO has partnered more than 250 teachers with over 100 professional or amateur astronomers, who work together to teach astronomy. He has received numerous Education and Public Outreach grants to support these programs.

Among his many other commitments to teacher training and development, Dr. van der Veen is the lead science educator on a NASA grant with NJIT, which provides a website and a series of workshops to help high school teachers integrate astronomy content into biology, chemistry and physics curriculums. He is also the lead on a grant with Princeton University to develop a "Gravity and Orbital Motion" teacher's guide.

Dr. van der Veen has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. In his 15 years as an astronomy researcher he worked at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh Scotland, the Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii, and at Columbia University in New York City. Ten years ago he gave up his career in research to fully concentrate on helping educators improve the way they teach astronomy and science in general.

RVCC, located on Route 28 and Lamington Road in North Branch, NJ, and serving Somerset and Hunterdon County residents for close to 40 years, offers 90 associate degrees and certificates. In addition, customized training programs and non-credit courses are available for those seeking personal and professional development.

The College is committed to offering a quality and affordable education through effective teaching, liaisons with the community?s businesses and state-of-the-art technology. For further information, visit www.raritanval.edu .

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