Personable and Professional

Castelaz, Mike

Associate Professor of Physics

Mike Castelaz earned his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Wyoming where he discovered newly forming stars just after gravitational collapse. After Wyoming, he was awarded a 2-year National Academy of Sciences Research Associateship in Infrared Astrophysics at NASA Ames Research Center where he studied interstellar matter – the material from which stars form. His experience in astronomical instrumentation and data reduction techniques was put to good use when he left NASA Ames and joined the astronomy staff at the Allegheny Observatory of the University of Pittsburgh as a Research Associate in a five year position. At Allegheny Observatory he was a part of an effort to search for planets around other stars. Also, while there he also taught astronomy at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

His interest in teaching grew and so he joined the faculty in the Physics and Astronomy Department at East Tennessee State University. He taught Physics and Astronomy courses and also served as Observatory Director of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy Observatory located at Kitt Peak near Tucson, Arizona. Unexpectedly, in 2001, Dr. Castelaz was recruited by the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) – a newly formed non-profit science education center and astronomical observatory located near Brevard, NC – to serve as Research Director and initiate research and education programs. He created and helped develop programs like remote control of radio telescopes, summer and after-school programs for K-12 students with an emphasis on unifying research and education – experiential education at its best. He also helped form the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive – a repository of for U.S. astronomical film and plate collections – at PARI.

On learning of the opening of a faculty position in 2014 at Brevard College to teach physics and astronomy, Dr. Castelaz applied. He was offered the position and is currently Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Brevard College where he can expand the experiential education efforts begun at PARI and now include lab resources both at Brevard College and PARI. His research interests include eclipsing binary stars, the interstellar medium, and the preservation and digitization of historic astronomical photographic plate collections. He is also the Lead Investigator on a project funded by the National Science Foundation. The project is called ROVERS – Remotely Operated Vehicles to Engage and Retain Students and is being developed by with a team of professors and scientists at Brevard College and PARI. Hexapod robots will be placed at PARI and controlled remotely by Brevard College students in Environmental Science and Biology classes to study fauna in the forested areas of PARI.


Ph.D. in Physics, University of Wyoming
M.S. in Physics, Central Michigan University
B.S. in Physics, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Professional Activities:

Additional Awards & Honors: Member of the Council for Undergraduate Research, National Science Teachers Association Member, International Astronomical Union Member, Member of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

Professional Experience: discovered newly forming stars just after gravitational collapse as PhD student, University of Wyoming;  National Academy of Sciences Research Associateship in Infrared Astrophysics, NASA Ames Research Center; Research Associate at Allegheny Observatory of the University of Pittsburgh; Astronomy Instructor, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh; Associate Professor of Physics, Physics and Astronomy Department at East Tennessee State University; Director of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy Observatory, Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona; Science Director, Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) - developed experiential learning opportunities for middle school age through undergraduate students


“Another Component in the V523 Cassiopeiae Eclipsing Binary System” (Castelaz, M. W. 2014„ Information Bulletin on Variable Stars, accepted).
“A Long Term High-Cadence Nova Survey” (Castelaz, M. W., Rottler, L., Barker, T., Coker, M. 2014, Bulletin American Astronomical Society, Vol. 46, #254.29, 2014)

“The Astronomical Photographic Data Archive” (Cline, J. D., Barker, T., Castelaz, M. W., Bulletin American Astronomical Society Volume 42, p. 513, 2010.)

“The Astronomical Photographic Data Archive at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute” (Castelaz, M. W. in Preserving Astronomy’s Photographic Legacy: Current State and the Future of North American Astronomical Plates. ASP Conference Series, Vol. 410. Edited by Wayne Osborn and Lee Robbins. San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, p.70, 2009.)

“The Dedicated Interferometer for Rapid Variability” (Dennison, B., Bennett, C. A., Blake, M., Brown, M., Castelaz, A. T., Castelaz, M., Christiansen, W. A., Cline, J. D., Daugherty, J. K., Hutchinson, D., Kaltreider, C., Kirbach, E. R., Moffett, D., Osborne, C., Owen, L. and Vorren, K., Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions, Vol. 26, No. 6, 557, 2007.)

“Small Radio Telescopes” (Castelaz, M. W., Cline, J. D., Osborne, in The Future of Small Telescopes In The New Millennium. Volume I - Perceptions, Productivities, and Policies. Edited by Terry D. Oswalt. Astrophysics and Space Science Library, Volume 287, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 2003. p.271, 2003.)

“Low Resolution Spectroscopy of Mira Variable Stars: 6200A To 8800A” (Castelaz, M. W., Luttermoser, D., Caton, D.  & Piontek, R.  Astronomical Journal, 120, 2627, 2000.)


National Science Foundation CAREER Award, National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Research Associate, East Tennessee State University Arts & Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award, American Astronomical Society Member


Contact Information

Phone Number: 828-884-8130


Mike Castelaz - BC Faculty