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Institute for Student Astronomical Research

The goals of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR) are to:

  • Conduct Research Seminars at high schools, two-year, and four-year colleges and universities.

  • Publish the results from Research Seminar in appropriate disciplinary journals.

  • Train teachers and professors so they can adopt the InStAR approach at their home institution.

  • Train citizen scientists to conduct and publish astronomical research in select fields.

  • Assist in training the next generation of scientists and researchers.

  • Promote effective teamwork and management in group projects.

  • Promote effective student writing and presentation skills.


The InStAR goals are achieved by pursuing the following objectives:

  • Offer and conduct Research Seminars in double star astrometry, exoplanet photometry, and solar astronomy.

  • Offer a variety of online courses directly through InStAR including different topical versions of the Seminar, as well as complementary courses in observational astronomy, astronomical instrumentation, and solar physics.

  • Serve as a central meeting place and coordination site to promote interaction, discussion, trouble-shooting, and brainstorming as it relates to Seminar teams, the conduct of research and writing publications, and working as teams.

  • Offer online resources that include textbooks, software, and introductory information about the topics of research supported by the Seminar.


InStAR achieves its goals and objectives through the establishment and expansion of a national network of schools, colleges, universities, research institutes, educators, professors, scientists, observatories, technical staff, and interested individuals.


InStAR received partial support and funding from National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant 1610350: Student Research Within Communities of Practice. InStAR thanks NSF, faculty, educators, the Collins Educational Foundation (CEF), and the Boyce Research Initiatives and Educational Foundation (BRIEF) for their support of students, student research, the educational process, and the promotion of scientific research.

Institute for Student Astronomical Research Officers










Rachel Freed, M.S.


Rachel Freed is a co-founder of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR), as well as a Seminar instructor, with a mission to incorporate true scientific research into secondary and undergraduate education. She is also a faculty lecturer in the School of Education at Sonoma State University and on the Science Organizing Committee for the annual conference on Robotic Telescopes, Student Research, and Education (RTSRE).

After earning a degree in Biology from UC Davis she used electron microscopy to study hippocampal synaptic transmission at U.C. San Diego and then went on to earn a M.S. in Neuroscience from Northwestern University, where she studied neural transmission using confocal microscopy and electrophysiology.


Rachel then taught high school chemistry and astronomy over the course of the next 15 years, during which time she conducted research on chemistry education, helping to design, build and evaluate an online formative assessment system for high school chemistry. She is involved in curriculum design and implementation and trains educators in the use of technology as a vehicle for change in education. She has been an amateur astronomer for over 15 years and is involved in public outreach bringing astronomy and spectroscopy to the general public. She is a public speaker with a focus on bringing telescopes to students around the globe. Her degrees in biology and neuroscience help to inform Rachel’s work in development of educational tools and curricula as well as outreach programs and teacher training. Email:







Kalée Tock, M.S.


Kalée Tock earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Harvard University and an M.S. from the Stanford University Department of Chemistry. She then earned a second Master's degree in Learning, Design, and Technology from the Stanford School of Education. Her chemistry graduate work was focused in bioinorganic chemistry, where she worked on magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy on Manganese complexes.  


Kalée now teaches chemistry and astronomy at Stanford Online High School, where the Astronomy Research Seminar is the spring semester followup to a more typical 1-semester astronomy course in fall. She loves designing science experiments, some of the best ideas for which have come straight out of the lab notebooks of SOHS students. She has supervised the design, launch, and retrieval of two weather balloons with students and looks forward to future launches! When not teaching, she enjoys camping, biking, and reading fiction of all genres.












Russell M. Genet, Ph.D.


Russell M. Genet (Russ), is the founder and early developer of the Astronomy Research Seminars, that began in the Fall of 2001 as Central Arizona College and were later continued at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California. He founded the Fairborn Observatory in 1979, named after the nearby town of Fairborn, Ohio, not far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where Russ worked as a research and development supervisor. He developed automatic telescopes and fully robotic observatories with Louis Boyd from 1980-1992. Their first fully automatic operation was in 1983, and his 1985 book, Microcomputer Control of Telescopes (with Mark Trueblood), provided a guide to the computerization and automation of many telescopes. 


The Fairborn Observatory was relocated to Mt. Hopkins in southern Arizona in 1985, and recommenced operation in 1986 as the Automatic Photoelectric Telescope Service in conjunction with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. By the late 1980s, the Fairborn Observatory consisted of seven, fully automated and remotely accessible telescopes including four 0.8-meter telescopes, all operating at an unmanned observatory. Russ and Douglas Hall (Vanderbilt University) co-founded the International Amateur-Professional Photoelectric Photometry (IAPPP) Association in 1980. The IAPPP, which played a key role in the development of robotic observatories, featured annual meetings, and its quarterly journal, the IAPPP Communications, was published for a quarter century.  


The IAPPP West morphed into the Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS) and is still going strong some 35 years later. Russ served as the 52nd President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1993-1995). For the past decade, the Astronomy Research Seminar he initiated has produced more than 100 student team papers on double star astrometry. Russ has been active in the advancement of speckle interferometry on smaller telescopes. He is a member of the faculty at California Polytechnic State University, Cuesta College, and Concordia University. Russ has a BS in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Astronomy. Email:











Reed Estrada, MBA, M.Eng.


Reed Estrada is currently the lead test pilot for Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk flight test program at Edwards AFB, CA. Prior to his employment as a test pilot he was a primary Test Director for the B-2 bomber program at Palmdale Air Force Plant 42. Reed served 24 years in the United States Air Force as a B-52 bomber pilot and senior instructor pilot retiring as the Chief Pilot for the Air Forces Combat Flight Instructor Course (CFIC) at Barksdale AFB, LA. 


Reed holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Embry Riddle University as well as a Masters in Engineering from Steven Institute of Technology and a Bachelors of Science degree in Micro Biology from Brigham Young University.  He has been involved with astronomy for the past 20 years including the manufacture of large amateur telescopes and participation in Russ Genet’s Astronomy Research Seminars as an instructor and an observer.

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