Unless you have a strong passion for body systems or ionic bonds, there's a good chance that if you took astronomy, it was to fulfill the general education requirement and it is most certain that Aaron Steinhauer was your professor.
Raised in Albion, Michigan – a town only marginally smaller than Geneseo – Steinhauer sought education up and down the east coast before making western New York his home. He did his undergraduate work in Connecticut, his graduate work at the University of Indiana Bloomington, and he completed a two-year post-doctorate program at the University of Florida. Geneseo was the first college to employ him as a faculty member.
As the sole astronomy professor on campus, Steinhauer does not experience the "lone wolf" sensation that one might expect. A faculty member of the physics department, he finds that astronomy and physics are quite compatible with one another.
"There [are] a lot of physics professors around me, and we speak the same language," he said. "Even among the actual physics professors, [there are] some that are nuclear, some that are something else. We all have different niches, but at the core we are all in the same boat."
A lot of big projects go on within the astronomy sect of the physics department; some cool additions in the near future will fall under Steinhauer's direction.
Every summer, Steinhauer takes a group of students to Kit Peak National Observatory in Arizona, where the group spends five to seven nights looking at and collecting data about the stars. Because of connections Steinhauer has made, the students are able to use powerful telescopes in order to collect their data.
So what's coming next? "We're going to have a 20-inch telescope, hopefully by the end of the semester," he said with a smile. "It's supposed to be up now, but there were some problems with it and we had to send it back. Once it's up we can use it to do demonstrations at night."
It is clear that Steinhauer loves what he does. "It's fun to watch people grasp concepts that they hadn't understood before," he said of working with students on homework problems.
"Also, I think it helps that I absolutely love what I do," he said. "I love astronomy, I love to learn about it and study it. And I get to stand up and just talk about it for three hours. It's great."
Even if he didn't love the job, he clearly loves his work setting; Steinhauer lives right in the village of Geneseo and has an interesting insight into the town that most of us only experience for eight months out of the year.
"It's pretty small," he admitted, "Pretty monochrome, in terms of the diversity of [the] people here, but it's charming."
"It's actually nice in the summer," he joked.
Whether it's a brand new telescope in the Integrated Science Center or a million-dollar project in Arizona, Steinhauer incorporates his work into his lifestyle. Whatever the season, this passionate professor is always ready to roll up his sleeves and talk about the stars.