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Wayland Teacher Gets Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching from BU

Professor Marscher’s Cosmology and Core Curriculum courses are demanding. They’re also memorable.

Professor Alan Marscher. Credit: Mike Spencer, BU Photography
Professor Alan Marscher. Credit: Mike Spencer, BU Photography
Boston University gives Metcalf Awards each year to one or more finalists for Excellence in Teaching, each of them receiving $5,000. 

Alan Marscher, a Wayland resident, received this distinguished award for 2014. 

Marscher is professor of astronomy in the College of Arts & Sciences, and through his research, he explores high-energy astrophysics and the nature of extragalactic phenomena, including black holes and exploding stars, said BU in a press release.

For more than 25 years, Professor Marscher has shaped the way non-science majors approach scientific inquiry, said BU, providing a grounding that goes galaxies beyond fulfillment of requirements and instead sparks in students a lasting fascination with the laws of the universe and their impact on humanity. A champion of in-class discussion and demonstration, Marscher infuses lectures with equal parts Mr. Wizard and science fundamentals, colorfully illuminating questions of astronomy, our origins, and our future.

Writes one student, “Professor Marscher engages the minds of his students and expands not simply their worldview, but how they look at themselves, the night sky, and the entire universe. His lectures are not verbatim readings of the textbook . . . but are instead guided journeys through the cosmos where students visit super massive stars and learn that the iron atoms in their blood originated in their cores.”

Professor Marscher’s Cosmology and Core Curriculum courses are demanding. They’re also memorable. Challenging assignments are punctuated by class visits to the Hayden Planetarium or to the College of Arts & Sciences’ roof, where Professor Marscher sets up telescopes to view planets, the moon, and binary stars. And then there are the songs—about black holes, gravity, and atoms—which he composes and enthusiastically performs to help clarify difficult material.

Professor Marscher earned his B.S. in Engineering Science from Cornell University and his Master’s and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Virginia. He conducted postdoctoral work at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The Director of BU’s Institute for Astrophysical Research, he has authored hundreds of articles in leading journals and written his course’s Core Curriculum textbook, published electronically and distributed for free to students.

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