Dr. Valerie Rapson (Astronomer)


Valerie’s interest in astronomy started when she was a young child. She watched endless Star Trek episodes with her father and hoped to one day better understand how the universe works. During her undergraduate career at the University of Rochester, Valerie had the opportunity to teach a summer physics course for young women, and this is where her passion for science education and outreach blossomed.
Valerie went on to get her Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her dissertation focused on the chemical composition and structure of planet-forming disks around nearby young stars.

Valerie has extensive experience educating the public about all things astronomy. She has worked at the Strasenburgh planetarium, taught lifelong learning programs for retired adults, and has been active in many amateur astronomy clubs throughout NY state. In 2014 Valerie was inducted into the American Astronomical Society’s Astronomy Ambassadors program, recognizing her extensive participation in astronomy outreach throughout Rochester, NY. From 2015-2020 she held the position of Chief Astronomer of the Dudley Observatory where she designed and taught astronomy education programs for K-12 students and adults. In 2018 she received the Emerging Leader Award from Girls Inc. of the Capital Region which recognizes a young professional who is a role model for girls and women and is blazing a trail toward personal advancement.

Valerie is currently an Assistant Professor at SUNY Oneonta where she teaches physics and astronomy classes and involves undergraduate students in research at the campus planetarium and observatory.