Friday, December 23, 2011

Shanil Virani, Planetarium & Recruiting Director

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is delighted to announce that Shanil Virani will begin his duties full-time as Director of the John C. Wells Planetarium in January 2012. He brings planetarium experience both from Yale University as well as JMU. He is an enthusiastic and capable educator and is already working to move the planetarium program forward.

With our annual planetarium attendance near 10,000, there is already a vibrant program in place. Shanil already has many ideas for extending the reach of our programs both on- and off-campus. If you would like to discuss ideas for how the planetarium as a full-dome video facility, a star projection facility or as a unique auditorium can fit with your educational plans, please contact Shanil at

The Wells Planetarium is an amazing venue with capabilities unique among planetariums of its size. Come join Shanil in exploring the universe with the greater JMU community.

In addition to Shanil's duties in the planetarium, he is also charged with student recruiting. As many know, Dr. Jon Staib continues to orchestrate our winter recruiting/scholarship efforts that have done so much to grow our department into a nationally recognized program. However, since he retired several years ago, we've been living on borrowed time, hiring him part-time to continue with his successful approach.

This spring, Jon and Shanil will work together on the recruiting to pass the baton on to Shanil for the future. This combination of outreach and recruiting put Shanil in a central position to take our department to the next level in our quest to be the biggest, best and most amazing undergraduate physics department in the nation.

Join us in welcoming Shanil to his new position.

PandA Holiday Party

On the last day of classes, December 9, we hosted our annual department holiday party. As can be seen above, the pizza was a welcome component of the festivities.

Santa's helper, Dr. Butner, delivered a welcome round of joy and presents. The students also roasted presented gifts for the faculty.

A complete set of photos is found here.

As always the holiday video was met with howls of laughter and a good time was had by all.