Stephen Pompea is an innovator in optics education having created many new optics education programs and teaching tools, including the Hands On Optics program. Since 2002, he has led the education and public outreach programs at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and was name the first Observatory Scientist in 2014.
He did his undergraduate work in physics, space physics, and astronomy at Rice University, his Master’s work in physics teaching at Colorado State University, and his Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Arizona. He developed space instruments for NASA, served as instrument scientist for the NASA NICMOS instrument for the Hubble Space Telescope at the University of Arizona, and as infrared instrument scientist for Gemini 8-meter telescopes project.
He has been PI or Co-I on many national science education projects in the areas of instructional materials development, public programs, informal science education, teacher and student research, and teacher professional development. Dr. Pompea has been working in optics education since he was in high school, when he designed programs for elementary school students inspired by high school teachers, one of whom later became president of the National Science Teachers Association. In 2011 Dr. Pompea was awarded the Esther Hoffman Beller Medal from the Optical Society of America for his contributions to optical sciences education and especially for his work in creating the Galileoscope student telescope kit. He is a Fellow of SPIE and the Optical Society of America. He is also the recent recipient of the Robert A. Millikan Medal from the American Association of Physics Teachers.
He is the author, coauthor, or editor of 15 books in optics and science education, over 120 papers, and has given over 350 presentations at professional conferences. Pompea is an adjunct faculty member of the University of Arizona with previous adjunct appointments at Colorado State University and the University of Arkansas.