Julia Kregenow, associate teaching professor of astronomy and astrophysics, has been honored with the 2019 C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society. Instituted in 1972 and named in honor of Clarence I. Noll, dean of the college from 1965 to 1971, the award is the highest honor for undergraduate teaching in the college. Students, faculty members, and alumni nominate outstanding faculty members who best exemplify the key characteristics of a Penn State educator, and a committee of students selects the award winners from the group of nominees. Kregenow was presented with the award during an event held on the University Park campus on October 10, 2019.
Kregenow’s primary goals in teaching are to demystify science and math, use quantitative reasoning over arithmetic, and help students understand the process of science. Having taught over 7,000 students at Penn State in the past 11 years, Kregenow’s dedication is evident to both the astronomy and astrophysics department and her students.
“Dr. Kregenow is a fantastic resource for me and other young academics who want to be good at teaching,” said one of Kregenow’s students. “She absolutely loves her job and cares about her students as people, which really shows when she lectures. She has a great understanding of how people learn—and how they learn differently—and adjusts her classes each semester with new techniques that help students. She collects midterm evaluations and acts on them, listening to the students and giving them a voice.”
Over her 18 years of teaching, Kregenow has developed guiding principles that inform choices in the classroom. Each principle focus on making lessons engaging and addressing the difficulties of learning new content. In addition to teaching undergraduates, Kregenow has led the Evidence-Based Teaching Workshop for faculty in the Eberly College of Science and has also led workshops for new faculty in the college and new teaching assistants in the department. Outside of the classroom, Kregenow has published four astronomy books that cover the range of introductory college course material to bedtime stories for young children.
Kregenow has published her research in a number of academic journals, including the Journal of College Science Teaching, Astronomy Education Review, and the Astrophysical Journal. She has also been featured in popular blogs like TeachBetter and Women in Astronomy as well as in the American Astronomical Society newsletter. Most recently, Kregenow was invited to present a workshop at the 2019 International Astronomy Teaching Summit after also presenting a plenary talk in 2018.
Kregenow joined Penn State as an instructor in 2009 and was promoted to associate teaching professor in 2017. Prior to that, she was an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Physics and the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University. She earned a doctoral degree in astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2007 and a bachelor’s degree in physics at Wittenberg University in 2001.