All posts by Barbara Wolter

SPC offers telescope viewing of five planets

SPC Planetarium

There is a lot of planet activity in the early morning sky, with five planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, visible at the same time. For about the next month, you will be able to see these five for the first time in a decade.

Telescope viewing of five planets

In response, the St. Petersburg College Observatory will host free telescope viewing of the five planets from 6-7 a.m. on:

  • Friday Jan.29
  • Saturday Jan. 30
  • Wednesday Feb. 3
  • Thursday Feb. 4
  • Friday, Feb. 5

The events are weather permitting; telescope viewing is cancelled if skies are not clear. On these dates the moon will add to the spectacle, and Mercury will be more easily visible.

The SPC Observatory is located on the third floor of Science building on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs campus, at Fifth Avenue N and 69th Street.

Explore the universe at St. Petersburg College

The St. Petersburg College Planetarium and Observatory are great places for all ages to explore the universe. The planetarium is a “star theater” with a 24-foot domed ceiling that can accurately simulate the night sky at any time or location on Earth.

The rooftop observatory, features a 20-inch reflecting telescope that is open to students and the public. Additional telescopes are available on our spacious third floor observation deck. Special telescopes equipped with solar filters allow daytime visitors to safely view sunspots, prominences and other solar activity. Both the planetarium and observation deck are wheelchair-accessible.

For more information, contact Dr. Craig Joseph, Planetarium director, at 727-341-4320.

St. Petersburg College offers Astronomy Classes and a variety of physical science classes.

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Learn more about the 5 planets alignment on these articles:

SPC alumna @SylviaEarle Oceanographer/Environmentalist #WeAreSPC

Sylvia Earle notable alumni art

This December, we will celebrate a momentous occasion – SPC’s 150,000th graduate. What does an SPC graduate look like? Check out our graduate and alumni stories and be prepared to be inspired. Help us spread the word and share your own story today on social media by adding the hashtag #WeAreSPC to your posts and tweets on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

SPC alumna Sylvia Earle is an award-winning oceanographer, aquanaut and author. A National Geographic explorer-in-residence, Earle is most recently known for her work to safeguard the oceans with Mission Blue.

Earle’s Mission Blue initiative aims to increase protected areas of the ocean from today’s level of four percent up to 20 percent by the year 2020. St. Petersburg College is proud of Sylvia Earle and many of our alumni and current science students who are committed to learning about how to save the planet.

“I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films, expeditions, the web, new submarines – to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet,” said Earle in this 2009 TED Prize presentation.

The images alone on this presentation are riveting.

Earle earned her A.A. degree from then St. Petersburg Junior College in 1953. She then  transferred to Florida State University where she earned a bachelor of science degree. She later went on to earn her masters and doctoral degrees from Duke University.

To celebrate her work, LEGO released a Mission Blue LEGO set with a miniature of Sylvia Earle. Follow her on Twitter.

SPC student heads up Lionfish Safari


By Dr. Heyward Matthews and Dr. Monica Lara

On September 12 and 13, Reef Monitoring Inc. will sponsor a Lionfish Safari to help control the spread of the invasive Lionfish that is threatening our local reef fish. The event is under the direction of  Cory Trier, a marine sciences student at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater Campus.

Learn more about St. Petersburg College’s Natural Science offerings and how SPC science students are engaging in real-world research projects that make a difference.

Trier is the only student on the Board of Directors of Reef Monitoring, a non-profit corporation formed in 2010 by a group of faculty on the Clearwater Campus, to monitor the fish and invertebrate populations on our local natural and artificial reefs.

While the first objective of this group was to train local sport divers to collect base line data on local reefs, several years ago the underwater surveys indicated an increase in the numbers of this invasive fish species that poses a serious threat to local reefs communities.

Trier has spent many hours working with the people at the Guy Harvey Outpost and the Trade Winds Resort to promote this event and also obtaining sponsors from local business and dive organizations and is a certified SEI Dive Master.

He assist SPC Professor Heyward Mathews with the college open water and advanced open water classes at the Clearwater Campus. Trier and several other SPC students collected data on Lionfish from the Aug. 15 St. Petersburg Open Spearfishing Contest. More than 350 Lionfish were removed from local reefs during this event. The previous Reef Monitoring Lionfish Safari back in September of 2014 collected more than 460 invasive Lionfish from local waters.

Trier plans on continuing in the new field of Lionfish research in graduate school next year.

SPC alumni focuses on Computational Biophysics research

SPC Alumni Amy Rice
Amy Rice

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School alumni Amy Rice, recent recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Research Fellowship at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), is conducting research in the field of Computational Biophysics.

While she has experimental collaborators that she works with, her research is primarily computer based and does not happen in a traditional laboratory.

“My project specifically is looking at a class of antimicrobial peptides produced by most animals,” she explained. “It is thought that bacteria don’t really become resistant to them. Not a lot is known currently as to why they work so well, but are not harmful to human cells.”

What is Computational Biophysics?

In Computational Biophysics computerized simulations are used to enable researchers like Rice to explore actions and reactions that happen within cells in very short time frames – nanoseconds – and very short distances.

“It’s hard from the experimental side to figure out what is happening on such small time and distance scales,” she said.

She is currently working with a team of researchers led by Dr. Jeff Wereszczynski at IIT. The Wereszczynski Group also includes two postdoctoral researchers and another Ph.D. student. Learn more about her research with the Wereszczynski Group at IIT.

Rice plans to continue her career in the same general field of research by teaching, working with graduate students and doing research.

“I love computational work,” she said. “It is a big up and coming field – new in last 20-30 years. It’s exciting for me to think about where it will be in future when computers are even more powerful,” she said.

An early interest in study of biology

After earning her A.A. degree from St. Petersburg College in 2009, Rice transferred to IIT where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics.

“Biology was my first love,” said Rice. “It’s what got me interested in science in the first place.”

Looking back to her time at SPC, she remembers loving her anatomy and physiology class.

“The professor had a way of making the class incredibly interesting and bringing in his outside knowledge to make it more real to us,” she said.

Her advice to other students is practical:

“Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Rice. “In science you fail a lot. I’ve had to start my research project over nine times now. The first eight times I failed. If you are not failing you are not at the cutting edge of your field.”

Related links: