By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
A new star at Oswego: Natalia Lewandowska is a new assistant professor of physics
Expect to see a new face at Oswego this fall, Natalia Lewandowska: Ph.D. and assistant professor of physics.
It is apropos that Lewandowska was born in the same Polish town as astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, as she has worked in astronomy all her career.
She and her family moved to Germany when she was 6. She dragged her parents to the local planetarium every weekend to explore her interest in astronomy. After she completed her education in Germany, Lewandowska came to the U.S. to participate in a post-doctorate fellowship at Greenbank Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, in 2016.
Oswego’s planetarium attracted Lewandowska to apply for her current position in early 2022.
“I have loved planetariums since I was little,” she said. “I was curious as to how people create shows for them. I wanted to learn more about it.”
In addition to developing programming for the planetarium for the public and for students, she also teaches astronomy and physics. Since the digital planetarium has been used since 2013, Oswego has hosted more than 3,200 visitors annually. Between 2013 and 2020, the number of shows rose to 165 yearly on average.
Lewandowska likes how the planetarium makes nature more accessible to people.
“Physics has a stigma of being hard,” she said. “It’s not that hard. Nature is very complex. Physics and the other life sciences are complex. When I decided to study physics, I heard many times, ‘Do you really want to do that? It’s so hard.’ As with everything, there were topics I did like and topics I did not like. I encourage younger generations that if they have that goal, they should not be scared because they hear physics is hard.”
She hopes to show her students her research on pulsars, very fast and highly magnetized neutron stars, with the planetarium programming.
“I always keep telling my students if you have big dreams, try to make them real in your life,” she said. “I had a big dream when I was a kid. The journey has been long. On the other hand, I’m so happy that at the age of 10 when I decided what I wanted to be in life, I kept going.
“The younger generation should reach for the stars if they are convinced this is what they should do.”
Lewandowska enjoys photography and traveling.