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Name: Denise Stephens

BYU employee since… I arrived in January 2007.

My job at BYU is… I am an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and I teach primarily astronomy courses from the introductory 127 course to our upper-level graduate courses. I am an astronomer and I use the telescopes on campus every clear night to try and find planets around other stars. I advise several undergraduate students who do research with me studying extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs.

Currently I’m working on… the discovery of extrasolar planets and the characterization of the atmospheres of brown dwarfs. With our 16-inch telescope, we work with collaborators to try and discover previously unknown planets around other stars. I am also interested in planet formation and how these planets form in disks around stars. The brown dwarfs I study form like stars, but they are not massive enough to fuse hydrogen in their cores, so they behave like planets and they have clouds. But these clouds consist of iron and minerals: basically they rain dirt. I am interested in the properties of these clouds and using observations to understand the physics of these atmospheres and relate that information to our knowledge of extrasolar planet atmospheres.

Photo Credit: Nate Edwards / BYU Photo

I’m currently reading… The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel.

Children changed the way I view my priorities because having children puts everything in perspective. When you care for someone else full-time and are more concerned with their needs and wants than your own, it brings you closer to understanding the relationship you have with your Heavenly Parents and gives you a glimpse of what eternity really is like.

My favorite lecture to teach is… my final lecture in Physics 127 where I get to share my testimony of astronomy and link what we have learned for the semester to the gospel.

What makes teaching the greatest job in the world is… the relationships I make with my students.

My most cherished memory at BYU was when… Traveling with other women here at BYU down to Florida to play in an international flag football tournament. Go Alot!

The best-kept BYU secret is that faculty can play intramurals because playing flag football at BYU has allowed me to make some great friendships with other women here at BYU.

Photo Credit: Nate Edwards / BYU Photo

On Saturday mornings you’ll find me… coaching softball or going running (and maybe sleeping if I observed the night before).

My favorite quote is… "An educated man is not one whose memory is trained to carry a few dates in history  he is one who can accomplish things.  A man who cannot think is not an educated man, however many college degrees he may have acquired. Thinking is the hardest work anyone can do, which is probably the reason we have so few thinkers. As we pursue our careers and develop our purposes, we need to keep in mind the broader objectives of our time on Earth to achieve a balance and richness in our personal lives. One must, having learned to learn, then go on learning. What the public takes for brilliance is really the result of thorough, painstaking investigation and downright hard work. Were we to be deprived of work, we should be robbed of our greatest field of enjoyment and be forever condemned to mediocrity." — Thomas S. Monson

My favorite TV show growing up was… a cartoon called G-Force.