Stephen Pompea

Stephen Pompea

Adjunct Professor of Optical Sciences
Affiliate Professor, Steward Observatory

National Optical Astronomy Observatory
950 N. Cherry Avenue
Tucson, Arizona 85719


Observatory Scientist Emeritus
NSF's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Laboratory
Visiting Professor, University of Leiden, The Netherlands


  • Observatory Scientist: National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 2002-present
  • Consultant: Science Education, Optical Physics, Optical Engineering, 1993-2002
  • Associate Scientist: AURA Gemini 8-Meter Telescope Project, 1991-1993
  • Instrument Scientist: University of Arizona, 1989-1991
  • Senior Engineer: Martin Marietta Aerospace, 1980-1989
  • Science Teacher: Air Academy School District, 1977-1980

Professional Affiliations and Activities

  • American Association of Physics Teachers, Fellow 
  • American Astronomical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Illuminating Engineering Society
  • International Astronomical Union
  • International Dark Sky Association
  • National Science Teachers Association
  • Optica, Fellow
  • SPIE - The International Society for Optics and Photonics, Fellow
  • Colorado State University, Department of Physics: Affiliate Faculty, 1977-1987
  • International Year of Astronomy 2009: U.S. Project Director
  • “Hands On Optics: Making a Difference with Light": Project Director
  • “Teachers Leaders in Research-Based Astronomy”: Project Director
  • “NOAO/NASA Spitzer Space Telescope Observing Program for Students and Teachers”: Project Co-Director
  • U.S. Telescopes Kits and Optics Challenges Working Group (Galileoscope), International Year of Astronomy 2009: Chair

Awards and Honors

  • American Association of Physics Teachers: Robert A. Millikan Medal, 2016
  • AURA: Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Award, 2011
  • American Association of Physics Teachers: Fellow
  • Colorado Secondary School: Teaching Award, 1979
  • Martin Marietta: Distinguished Publication Award, 1986
  • Martin Marietta: Distinguished Publication Award, 1985
  • Martin Marietta: Distinguished Publication Award, 1984
  • Martin Marietta: Inventor Award, 1986
  • Martin Marietta: Inventor Award, 1984
  • Martin Marietta: Inventor Award, 1983
  • NASA: Group Achievement Award, 2011
  • NASA: Group Achievement Award, 2007
  • National Association of Geoscience Teachers: Distinguished Lecturer, 2007-2010
  • NOAO: National Optical Astronomy Observatory Excellence Award, 2005
  • OSA: Esther Hoffman Beller Medal, 2011
  • OSA: Fellow
  • SPIE: Fellow
  • SPIE: Educator Award, 2018
  • Tucson Metropolitan Education Commission: Crystal Apple Award, 2011

Specific Research Interests

  • Science education program and instructional materials design
  • Science communication and engagement strategies, especially for groups underrepresented in STEM
  • Optical system design and analysis, stray light, and optical materials


  • Ph.D, The University of Arizona, 1989
  • M.A.T., Colorado State University, 1977
  • B.A., Rice University, 1975