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UNLV’s College of Sciences turns 50 years old this year


The college is an umbrella over chemistry, geoscience, math, physics, water management and many more areas of high science.  


Studies done within the college are also a big reason the university was recently named a Tier 1 Research Institution after years of working toward that goal. 

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Jason Steffen is a professor of astronomy at UNLV. He said the university has grown along with the Las Vegas Valley.

“It has grown so much... like quadrupled since the 1980s, that the university has really had to change its mission from being primarily a teaching college in the '80s to… a big research university today,” he said.

That growth is one of the reasons Steffen decided to come to UNLV. 

“Because the region has exploded in population recently, UNLV is growing and really is transforming at this point," he said. "It’s a good time to be at a university where it’s shouldering a bigger responsibility, being in a metropolitan area with 2 million people.”

Steffen said an advantage to working at a younger university with a newer staff is that no one is really siloed into their own space. He said they are a lot of faculty members who share the same areas of research and are willing to work together. 

Much of that research is focused on exo-planets, which are newly formed planets. Beyond the astronomy department, Steffen said researchers in geoscience are looking at how life is sustained in extreme conditions like hot springs or the ocean floor. 

He would like to see all the scientist studying in those areas come together to create an institute focused on the origins of stars, planets and life itself.

Steffen said people in the community don't realize how much groundbreaking research goes on at the university and how many world-renowned scientists call UNLV home. 

“It’s here and it’s here to stay," he said. "There are a lot of people that are excited to be here and excited to be part of this growing phase of the university.”

Steffen's hope for the future of the college is that it creates a new generation of scientists working to solve the world's problems.

“I’m hoping UNLV becomes a source of people who are trained to tackle the problems and improve the human condition in whatever way they choose to do it.”

The college is holding a series of lectures by professors from each department to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Steffen is holding the first lecture on January 31.




Jason Steffen, astronomy professor, UNLV

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