About Reach for the Stars

Reach for the Stars: Computational Models for Teaching and Learning in Physics, Astronomy and Computer Science is a GK-12 program funded by the National Science Foundation, with support from CIERA and Northwestern University.

This NSF program places STEM graduate student fellows in K-12 science classrooms for the academic year with the goal of enriching their education and strengthening their development as researchers by advancing their communication and teaching skills. The fellows work in partnership with a collaborating teacher to bring more inquiry-based teaching methods into the classroom and to further expose K-12 teachers and students to the research process. Through Reach for the Stars, GK-12 fellows will adapt concepts of computational thinking and actual computational modeling tools from their research work to classroom activities connected to the existing math and science curriculum.

News and Announcements

June 2018

Reach for the Stars Helps Chicago-Area High School Students Host 2018 GirlCon
On Saturday, June 16th, over 170 middle and high school girls from around the United States gathered to address the future of diversity in STEM during GirlCon 2018, hosted by CIERA and Reach for the Stars.

GirlCon was held at Northwestern’s Norris Center and was ideated, organized, and executed by a team of 15 high-school girls from across the US, lead by Deerfield High School rising junior Kyla Guru and Libertyville High School rising senior Molly Graton. More than 50 recognized experts in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics served as speakers, breakout session leaders, and lunch panelists.

Learn more about GirlCon at girlcon.io and follow @girlconchicago on Instagram for updates about 2019!


May 2018

Professor Vicky Kalogera Elected to National Academy of Sciences
Reach for the Stars program PI, Vicky Kalogera, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Science. Membership in the academy is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States.

Kalogera, the Daniel I. Linzer Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Astronomy, is among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Read the full Northwestern Now article.
Congratulations Vicky!


Reach for the Stars Teacher, John Kretsos, Honored with Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award
Former GK12 teacher, John Kretsos, is among five high school teachers who will be awarded during the 2018 Northwestern commencement ceremony for the positive impact they've had on their students' lives.

The Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award honors high school teachers who, through their professional and personal commitment, have impacted Northwestern students, and carries a monetary gift of $5,000 for each teacher, as well as $5,000 for each of their schools.

Along with Kretsos, the other DSTA recipients include Katherine Konyar; Mark Liu; Natalie Sekicky; and Esther Wu. The awardees teach in high schools all across the United States, including public schools in California, Illinois and Ohio.

Read the full Northwestern Now article.
Congratulations John!


Past News Items

Leadership Team

Vicky Kalogera (CIERA)

Vicky Kalogera received her Ptihio (B.S.) in Physics in 1992 from the University of Thessaloniki in Greece and her Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1997 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1997 she joined the Harvard-Smithsonian...more.

Michelle Paulsen (CIERA)

Michelle Paulsen is the Program Director and co-investigator for Reach for the Stars. She has over 15 years of experience in science education. She began her career as a science teacher at Deerfield High School where she taught...more.


“GK-12 is invaluable to me, post-graduation. I often find myself remembering lessons from the program. Much of my job now is communication and education with my users: scientists from diverse backgrounds. We also work often with outside donors - as we're a non-profit research institute - so the lessons I learned from GK-12 are critical to building knowledge. ”
– Dorothy Wheatcraft
Mass Spectrometry Scientist and Manager at the Jackson Laboratory, in Bar Harbor, ME.


“RftS has opened up a whole new world in my physics classes. Before participating in this program, I did not know what computational modeling was, and I did not know how to do any computer coding. Through lesson planning with my graduate fellow, I have learned how to code a little bit, and how to apply that code to introduce computational thinking. Without RftS, I would not have the dynamic and important lessons my students have now had the opportunity to learn.”
– Katie Page
Physics Teacher at Prospect High School