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COSAM Faculty Focus – Melissa Halford

Published: 04/02/2019

By: Maria Gebhardt

Growing up in the Bay Area of California, Melissa Halford knew she wanted to pursue a career in astronomy since her freshman year in high school.

“I like to be able to explain how things work,” explained Halford. “Physics gives you an incredible opportunity to apply familiar techniques to solve complex problems. The same tools we use here on Earth also help us understand the very different conditions that exist in space.”

Halford majored in astronomy at Cornell University and then earned her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona.

She made the transition from Arizona to Auburn.

“I was excited to come to Auburn because of how much the faculty in the Department of Physics care about the quality of teaching here,” Halford shared. “The norm in the department is collaboration and sharing of ideas to improve everyone’s teaching.”

Halford, a lecturer in the Department of Physics in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), always knew she would be in the classroom. She has taught in one form or another since middle school, when she tutored her peers in mathematics.

When she’s not in the classroom, Halford enjoys being outdoors. Halford taught rock climbing to students as an undergraduate at Cornell and still enjoys climbing today. She loves to take hikes and rides her bike to campus.

Halford also has a crafty side. She has been quilting since middle school and is currently working on a quilt that incorporates the entire solar system. Planets are to scale, but their sizes and distances are scaled differently so that all of the planets are visible. She is even adding moons to the design.

Halford’s sage advice to students is based on her approach to teaching. She shares with students her perspective that everyone in the classroom supports each other to succeed together.

“I was told when I gave my first lecture to a large class to remember that the students are rooting for me. I try to let them know that I’m rooting for them, too.” Halford said.

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