Astronomy Names Recipients for 2018-2019 Outstanding GSI Awards

April 22, 2019

Outstanding gsi 2019 This year's Outstanding GSI recipients, L to R: Philipp Kempski, Casey Lam, and Nathan Sandford

The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (OGSI) Award honors UC Berkeley GSIs each year for their outstanding work in the teaching of undergraduates. These OGSI recipients are nominated from within their teaching department. 

Criteria includes the following:

  • overall effectiveness as an instructor
  • capacity to promote critical thinking
  • skills in presenting course material
  • utilization of pedagogically effective approaches, for example, collaborative learning, problem-based learning, or community-based learning
  • skills in developing course materials that promote learning, for example, course syllabi, website, essay or exam questions, paper topics
  • command of the subject area
  • ability to motivate students
  • engagement in departmental and campuswide activities that enhance teaching and learning

This year's Outstanding GSI recipients are: Philipp Kempski, Casey Lam,  and Nathan Sandford.

Philipp Kempski
I’m a second-year graduate student working with Eliot Quataert. My research interests lie primarily in the area of astrophysical fluid dynamics and plasma physics. Recently I have focused on studying  the turbulence in accretion flows onto black holes. 

My Favorite Part of Teaching:
Teaching has been a very enjoyable and fulfilling part of grad school. I particularly enjoy being asked random puzzling physics questions during section or office hours.

Hobbies Outside of School:
I have always loved sports, so this is what I usually do when I’m not on campus. Next to sports, I also enjoy going to the movies and trying out new restaurants."


Casey Lam
My advisor is Jessica Lu. We're using gravitational microlensing to hunt for isolated stellar mass black holes in the Milky Way. In particular, I've been working on building a Milky Way microlensing simulation and trying to find an optimal strategy for selecting black hole candidates for astrometric follow up. 

Why I Enjoy Teaching:
Seeing students improve over the semester and accomplish/understand things they didn't think they could a few months before. 

Hobbies Outside of School:
Running; hiking; playing the piano, trombone, guitar.

Nathan Sandford

I work with Prof. Dan Weisz on the evolution of Local Group dwarf galaxies. I use a combination of photometry and spectroscopy of resolved stellar populations, galactic chemical enrichment models, and stellar atmosphere and evolution models to constrain the physical processes that shaped low mass galaxies in the early universe. I am also involved in organizing the Sierra Conference, a conference (and camping trip) for UC astronomy graduate students.  

Why I Enjoy Teaching: 
One of my favorite aspects of teaching is creating a supportive and collaborative environment where students feel comfortable working with their peers, making mistakes, and challenging themselves.