Ramon Lopez has influenced the K–12 education community, impacted science education and public outreach, supported the next generation of solar and space physicists, and innovated solar and space physics instruction.
Lopez, a researcher and physics professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, is co-founder, co-director, and an instructor of a branch of the UTeach program, 1 of 44 UTeach programs in the nation. UTeach qualifies STEM undergraduates to teach middle or high school math, science, engineering, or computer science upon graduation.
Lopez helped establish the SPA Education and Public Outreach committee, whose collaborations resulted in the creation of education-related sessions at AGU. While serving as Director of Education and Public Outreach for the American Physical Society from 1994 to 1999, he designed educational workshops for physicists and used this expertise to tailor the SPA EPO’s workshops for space scientists to support and improve K–12 education efforts.
As Co-PI for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling (CISM), he led the diversity program. A gifted recruiter and mentor, his leadership produced gains in the participation of women and minorities in undergraduate and graduate programs in space physics. As a CISM instructor, Lopez employed best practices for engaging diverse learners. He influenced other instructors to adopt his strategies, producing a broader impact on the community.
His participation on the Leadership Team for the Next Generation Science Standards resulted in the solar cycle and space weather’s inclusion within the high school science standards. The Decadal study suggested roughly half of all solar and space physics graduate students were unaware of the field until after being admitted to graduate school; Lopez has paved the way for future generations of space physicists.
A leader in space science education, Lopez is incredibly deserving of the SPARC award, and we congratulate him!
—Erin L. Wood, LASP, University of Colorado Boulder
I am honored to be included in the group of outstanding contributors to education and outreach who have been recognized for their work by the SPARC award. Many of the previous awardees are long-time friends and colleagues, and the fact that the SPA section has this award indicates the importance that our community places on education and outreach activities.
I have always believed that scientists have a responsibility to share the fruits of our science with the public that pays for our research. Scientists by and large lead privileged lives, pursuing their curiosity and engaging in stimulating interactions with far-flung colleagues. We owe it to society to provide tangible returns, whether in the form of improved space weather prediction, inspiring explorations of our and other worlds, or contributions to education that utilize the popularity of space science. I have been fortunate to be able to combine my education work with my space physics research and use each to support the other.
Working with K–12 educators, scientists can and should help to improve science education for all citizens of our space-faring civilization. In our universities and laboratories, we can nurture the next generation of scientists, especially from groups who have been underrepresented in science. Students who, for whatever reason, have not had equal access to opportunities represent a lost talent if we do not make efforts to seek them out, recruit, mentor, and support them to realize their potential.
Through the education efforts of those recognized by the SPARC award and that of the many others equally deserving of recognition, our community will continue to honor the social contract to give back to a society that is fascinated by space science.
—Ramon E. Lopez, University of Texas at Arlington