Physics and Astronomy Professor Lynn Cominsky is putting Sonoma State University on the interstellar map.

Dr. Cominsky has taught at the Rohnert Park campus for three decades, and also works with NASA and other space exploration agencies on, among other things, the study of black holes. One of those agencies is Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which confirmed a key piece of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by detecting gravitational waves emanating from the collision of two black holes in deep space.

She joined LIGO’s program advisory committee for a three-year term in 2007, and she now chairs the education working group for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

“I am thrilled to be a small part of the LIGO outreach effort,” she says. “Studying black holes has been most of my life’s work, and the discovery of gravitational waves using LIGO detectors will open an entirely new branch of astronomy.”

Dr. Comisky joined the Sonoma State faculty in 1986 and became chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department in 2004. Previously, she worked with the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory and NASA’s Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer Satellite Project. She did her undergraduate work at Brandeis University and earned her Ph.D. from MIT.

As the founder of Sonoma State’s Education and Public Outreach Group, Dr. Cominsky’s mission is to develop exciting educational materials that inspire students in grades 5 through community college to pursue STEM careers, to train teachers nationwide in the use of these materials, and to enhance science literacy among the general public.

“I’m passionate about providing opportunities for female and underrepresented minority students to ‘learn by making’ through hands-on activities that include computer programming and electronics,” she says.

“These skills are badly needed for the U.S. to stay economically competitive, and they are some of the most challenging to teach and to learn.”