Manuscript/Mixed Material Image 2 of Letter from Neil Tyson with enclosures

About this Item

Astronomy TA brings
fresh view to courses
Daily Texan Staff
Hie people crowded into the Welch Hall classroom on this
first night of summer have foregone TV, sports, movies or
other common forms of entertainment. Instead, they anticipate
a different kind of show tonight as they review for a test in
Astronomy 301.
At 7 p.m. Nell Tyson, teaching assistant and master's candi-
date in the Department of Astronomy, comes "onstage" to
perform for his students. As he moves rapidly about the room,
Tyson combines the style of a good stand-up comic with his
years of training in ballet, wrestling and basketball. He enjoys'
taking concepts such as microwaves and the inverse-square
law and translating them into everyday metaphors. For exam-
ple, he might demonstrate the Doppler effect by having stu-
dents walk past each other while they mimic the sounds of
racing cars; or he might wear a red T-shirt under infrared light
to show how colors become invisible when exposed to their own
"It's like having Richard Pryor for a TA," says business
freshman Donna Neider. "Nell loves to use down-to-earth ex-
amples to explain astronomical phenomena. He really comple-
ments the professor's style/' *
Frank Bash, professor of astronomy, agrees. "Neil has all
the attributes of a born teacher," he says. "He's enthusiastic
and has a great sense of humor, and I hope he continues to
teach sometime in his career."
The 25-year-old Tyson began his career by searching for
beauty in the skies above New York City, his hometown. "I
couldn't see many, .stars there, but I could see the moon," he;
says. "The crescent moon, as seen through binoculars, struck'
me as very beautiful." Frequent visits to the famed Hayden
Planetarium kept his interest going, but a vacation at the age
of 13 with relatives in Puerto Rico proved a real turning point
for him. "(In Puerto Rico) I really saw the stars for the first
time, and they caught my imagination like nothing before," he
Tyson pursued his muse, paying for bis first telescopes while
still in Junior high by walking dogs that lived in his apartment
building. He attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Sci-
ence and received a B.S. in Physics from Harvard in 1980.
His current research involves finding "dwarf" galaxies too
dim to be seen with optical equipment under normal conditions.
Existence of a certain quantity of these galaxies, he says, could
indicate there is more matter in the universe than previously
thought, perhaps enough for gravity to make the universe col-
lapse upon itself in the far future.
"My sense of appreciation has been transformed where I can
see not just the physical beauty of the sky but also the beauty in
Ken Ryall, Dally Texan Staff
Nell Tyson
the mathematical and mechanical procedures involved," he
says. "I do enjoy leaching because I like to tell about what's
happening, but research Is my first priority."
Tyson's willingness for giving all the help he can to his stu-
dents has gained him much friendship and respect, but he feels
he is simply repaying a debt >{
"When I was an undergrad, the TAs played more of a major
role than the professors did. The TAs even acted as advocates
to help raise the grades of deserving students. I feel It's my
duty to be as helpful to my students as those TAs were to me, "
:xhe saySa.'C.-.'.'iir.l- -.- an:«wei«> *•** •¦*-tv^yitr rs»i1 vlfíiaiv-t-'^i'.
Linda Salinas, a junior in data processing, says, "Normally
I'd run the other way from science, math or physics. But Neil's
encouragement awakened my interest and motivation. He is
not patronizing to us undergraduates ... he really cares." Sali-
nas says her experience with Tyson's teaching encouraged her
to take an upper level course for astronomy majors, which she
passed with a grade of "B."
As Tyson explains, "I try to tell people who are 'freaked out'
by astronomical concepts that science is not as intimidating as
. it looks ... I know everyone can't be as In love with astronomy
as I am, but I want them to know why astronomers enjoy what
they do and pass along my interest .... It takes more than
introductory courses to achieve scientific literacy; neverthe-
less, teachers of science should spend time relating their cours-
es to everyday things and issues.
"I really enjoy astronomy, even though there's little money
In it," he says. "My interest keeps me going, and I have no
complaints about doing what's needed to get the message

About this Item

Letter from Neil Tyson with enclosures
Contributor Names
Sagan, Carl (Addressee)
Tyson, Neil deGrasse (Author)
Subject Headings
-  Astronomy
-  Sagan, Carl
-  Mentorship
-  Mentoring
-  Tyson, Neil deGrasse
-  Correspondence
-  Neil deGrasse Tyson writes to Carl Sagan for recommendations for an agent or publisher he might contact about turning a series of Q & A pieces he wrote for Star date the astronomy news report into an illustrated book. He encloses a copy of a recent article about himself.
Dimensions in inches: 11 x 8 1/2; 8 x 7-clipping
Source Collection
The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive
Manuscript Division
Online Format
online text
IIIF Presentation Manifest
Manifest (JSON/LD)

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Sagan, Carl, and Neil Degrasse Tyson. Letter from Neil Tyson with enclosures. 1986. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

Sagan, C. & Tyson, N. D. (1986) Letter from Neil Tyson with enclosures. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Sagan, Carl, and Neil Degrasse Tyson. Letter from Neil Tyson with enclosures. 1986. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.

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