Considering the big question, “What is the universe and what is our place in it?” is what drew Dr. Heather Rave to the fascinating study of astrophysics.
“By asking that question, we can see ourselves as we truly are: voyaging together through a singular moment in time on one very special but relatively tiny planet amid the vastness of space,” she says. Because of that, she adds, astrophysics has the unique ability to unite humans, transcend borders, and promote collaboration between global teams in the unified pursuit of knowledge.
“Astrophysics uses the laws of physics and astronomy to seek to understand the universe and how it works, from studying stars and planets to emerging research in dark matter and black holes. We use that knowledge to discover truths about the history of the universe and to begin to understand where we may be heading.”
According to Dr. Rave, the three biggest recent discoveries and achievements that have revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos are the reveal of thousands of planets outside our solar system, the detection of gravitational waves, and the first image of a black hole.
A member of the STAC faculty since 2006, Dr. Rave currently teaches General Physics I and II, General Physics Laboratory I and II, Modern Mysteries of Astronomy, and Applied Calculus. It’s no surprise that she connects easily with her students. She is a STAC alumna who graduated summa cum laude with two bachelor’s degrees: one in mathematics and another in natural science with a specialization in physics. She continued her education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she earned a master’s in astrophysics. In 2018, she received a doctorate in science education with a specialization in astrophysics from Rutgers University.
Asked about the best aspects of her career, Dr. Rave says it’s the interaction with students and seeing them bloom. “I have the privilege of teaching students from a wide variety of disciplines and life perspectives. I love helping them look at real-world problems through a variety of lenses. It’s incredible to watch them learn to be critical thinkers and apply their knowledge.”
In addition to teaching at STAC, Dr. Rave has also served as an adjunct professor at Mount Saint Mary College and Seton Hall University. She is a member of the American Astronomical Society, American Society of Physics Teachers, Kappa Mu Epsilon, Sigma Pi Sigma, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Dr. Rave lives in Washingtonville, New York, in the house where she grew up which has been in her family since the turn of the century. She enjoys spending time with her parents, brother and sister-in-law, and nephew having family dinners and Nerf wars.
Recently, Dr. Rave finished her term as the Regent of the New York State Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA). She has held leadership positions in the organization since 1997. In her free time, she also enjoys many hobbies, including crafts and do-it-yourself projects, reading, and practicing taekwondo. Her favorite movies include the Original Star Wars Trilogy and the Marvel cinematic universe—especially “Iron Man” and “Doctor Strange.” She loves her one-eyed rescue cat, a ginger tabby named Keegan.
Astrophysics is very much a part of Dr. Rave’s day-to-day life on and off campus, and she considers herself a lifelong learner. “I am fascinated and want to understand the universe at the most fundamental levels and on the grandest of scales,” she says. “I think of physics/astrophysics as a lifelong journey to try and understand as much about the universe as possible. If we learn about one aspect, there are still more and more mysteries to discover and explore. To quote Carl Sagan, ‘Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.’”