Leah Simon

Stargazer. Physicist. Rocket Launcher.

My love affair with astronomy...

Growing up, my father had a telescope and took an active interest in all things astronomy so I've been around it most of my life.

In college, I took an introductory astronomy course just for fun and fell in love!  I found everything we learned about in the class fascinating and wanted to know more.  I was already taking courses in physics, so learning astronomy served as my motivation to pursue physics seriously.  My astronomy professor invited me to do research with her over the summer measuring chemical abundances of stars in other galaxies, and from then on there was no turning back.

I enjoyed the feeling of contributing to the scientific community, and have been measuring chemical abundances in extragalactic sources ever since!

Ripon’s small-college environment lets instructors and students interact with each other in a really personal way – both inside and outside of the classroom. We get to know our students individually and know what their interests are. We can sense when something is going wrong in their lives, but also when things are going well.

They know they’re not alone and they have resources for help if they need it. Those resources are their professors, not a graduate student. We really do care about the well-being of each student, both academically and outside of academics. Our small class sizes allow us to interact with them on a more personal level.

I teach physics, but the students here at Ripon College are multi-disciplinary and interested in so many different topics. They may be studying something like English or another area of science as well as physics, so they each bring their own different perspectives to the class. My students get really excited about certain topics that I maybe didn’t know much about before.

We, together, are able to incorporate these new ideas and new ways of thinking and bring a different approach to solving a problem in the classroom. The students help me. They teach me something while I’m teaching them something. We combine that information, and we all are able to grow.


"Our small class size allows us to really get to know our students."

Our pre-engineering students do basically the same things as a physics student. By studying physics, a student will be able to approach problems in a more creative way and see things from lots of different perspectives. Oftentimes, companies or graduate schools will be very excited to have someone who studied physics so they understand the same basic principles of an engineer but can come up with new solutions.

3-2 Engineering Program
Ripon's 3-2 engineering program combines three years of the liberal arts at Ripon with two years of engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute or Washington University.

Ripon's Red Hawk Rocketry team competes in the Collegiate Rocket Competition annually.

Ripon College is part of the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium. 

In September of 1989, the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program was inaugurated by NASA following a 1988 Congressional act, in order to address the national need for highly-skilled, technology savvy workforce. The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) was created in 1991 as a part of this national network. WSGC is dedicated to using the excitement and vision of space science and aerospace science to equip the citizens of Wisconsin with the math, science and technology tools they need to thrive in the next century. WSGC represents a powerful network of space and aerospace professionals, researchers, students, educators and legislators, that has statewide and national reach.

WSGC provides tens of thousands of grant dollars every year to undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, educators and industry partners throughout the state, for them to pursue scholarship and research studies and programs in every field of discipline, from physics and astronomy to business and finance to art. But WSGC offers much more than grant awards! WSGC serves as a central clearinghouse for information sharing for all of the big names in space and aerospace in Wisconsin.

Ripon College Rocket Team

The Ripon College Rocket Team is a group of students who work together each year to design, build and launch a high-powered rocket.  They compete against other teams in Wisconsin to successfully meet objectives chosen by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium Rocket Competition, which also allocates $1000 for supplies to build the rockets.

The winning team is awarded $1000 to be shared among team members. I serve as an advisor for the team, insuring they stay on-time and on-budget, and also helping the group to work together effectively.  The Rocket Team is a wonderful opportunity for students to gain experience with many aspects of engineering, from computer simulation to machining to creative problem solving and they also have a lot of fun!


Harry Knop
Harry Knop

Knop Scholarship

Students studying science may be eligible for a prestigious four-year, full-tuition scholarship thanks to the late Harry W. Knop Jr., Ripon College Class of 1942. In addition to recognizing and supporting students who plan to major in the field of natural science or mathematics, the Knop Scholars Program supports student and adviser summer research and students’off-campus educational opportunities.