Annual Astronomy Scholarship at UNC Asheville Established to Honor Professor Emeritus Brian Dennison

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UNC Asheville’s Department of Physics has been gifted an annual $2,500 scholarship by UNC Asheville parents Billie Hinton and Matthew Cromer for student research in physics and astronomy, in honor of recently retired Physics Professor Brian Dennison.

During his 13 years at the university, Dennison served as the endowed UNC Asheville Glaxo Wellcome Professor from 2004 to 2014, and taught astronomy, astrophysics, and quantum mechanics, among other courses. He retired in Fall 2017.

Dennison’s fields of interest include astrophysics, radio astronomy, and optical astronomy of the interstellar medium, and he received extensive funding primarily from the National Science Foundation in support of these efforts. He also served as campus director for the North Carolina Space Grant Program at UNC Asheville, which supported undergraduate research participation, and resulted in many additional scholarships and grants for the university and its faculty and students.

Dennison was also instrumental in the development of UNC Asheville’s Lookout Observatory, a facility that is operated jointly by UNC Asheville and the Astronomy Club of Asheville, and used extensively for student research, undergraduate instruction, and outreach to the community. In collaboration with other physics faculty members, Dennison developed and implemented the minor in astronomy at UNC Asheville.

As a student, Dylan Cromer worked as a Lookout Observatory assistant and docent, helping to align the telescopes and open the facility in 2014, as well as successfully welcome many of the more than 8,500 visitors since then. He graduated from UNC Asheville in spring 2017, earning the Manly Wright Award, which is presented annually to the graduate who ranks first in scholarship. He is pursuing a doctorate in theoretical astronomy at Cornell University, earning a full fellowship for his first year of graduate studies.

“Dr. Brian Dennison was a generous, engaged mentor to our son Dylan throughout his undergraduate study in physics and mathematics at UNC Asheville,” said Billie Hinton. “He offered guidance, many opportunities, and a passion for astronomy and physics that fueled Dylan’s journey to graduate school at Cornell. Each time we visited, Dylan brought us to campus to say hello and we watched students going in and out of Dr. Dennison’s office. His door was always open. He models the kind of professor every undergraduate should have.

“We are grateful for his scholarship, his devoted mentorship of undergraduate students in research, and his generosity overall,” Hinton continued. “We wish him the very best and hope this award enables students to continue a rich tradition in undergraduate research in physics and astronomy at UNC Asheville.”

For more information about UNC Asheville’s Department of Physics, visit physics.unca.edu. For more information about giving to UNC Asheville, visit giving.unca.edu.