A stunning view of deep space featuring a spiral galaxy with a bright core surrounded by swirling arms of stars and cosmic dust. The scene is filled with a rich array of colors, including blues, purples, and hints of pink, creating a vibrant, otherworldly atmosphere. Numerous stars are scattered across the image, twinkling against the dark backdrop of space. The image captures the vastness and beauty of the cosmos, with intricate details of nebulae and star clusters adding depth and dimension.

Margo Thornton

2024 Seed Grant Awardee

Project Description

NCCN Symposium

The image is an announcement for a funded project titled "NASA Community College Symposium”. It highlights that the project is focused on hosting a community college event to promote STEM degree pathways. The image features logos from NASA SCoPE (Connecting SMEs and SciAct), NASA Community College Network, Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration, and NASA Partner. It mentions Joshua Bardwell and Margo Thornton, graduate researchers from San Diego State University, as the leads on this project. There is a picture of an outer space phenomena. The word "FUNDED" is prominently stamped across the image.

The NASA Community College Symposium event involves a symposium panel of scientists from industry (e.g., NASA Goddard) and academia with a Q&A and breakout sessions / interactive workshops. We intend on advertising this event at local community colleges / high schools in the San Diego area and on campus at San Diego State University, with an emphasis on underrepresented groups. Given that 75% of our panel has come from a community college background, our intent is to show that a career in STEM is obtainable. Our hope is that this pilot event will become an annual event which establishes community and relationships for those within the San Diego Community College and 4-year university system.

Target Audience Age


NASA Division

Astro icon


Grant Status

Learning Context

digital learning enabled

Digital Learning

Home and family enabled

Neighborhood /

Informal out of school disabled

Informal /
Out of School

Home and Families disabled

Home / Family

citizen science disabled

Citizen Science

formal education enabled

Formal Education


Thornton Bio

Students local to the area can learn more about the field of space science…These deliverables will help schools across the nation utilize virtual content to recreate the NCCS event and workshops.

Margo Thornton NCCN Symposium Co-PI

Margo Thornton

NCCN Symposium Co-PI
Master's Student
San Diego State University

Margo Thornton completed her undergraduate studies at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics with minors in Astronomy and Mathematics. She was a big part of the Women in Physics club and continues to uphold positions where she encourages gender diversity among physics and astronomy. She has since continued her academic pursuit at San Diego State University (SDSU), where she is in the final year of her Master of Science in Astronomy. Under the mentorship of Dr. William Welsh, she is currently conducting research for her master's thesis, focusing on the search for circumbinary planets around short-period binary stars. She is also the lead teaching associate for the SDSU astronomy department, teaching two sections of an introductory astronomy laboratory class. Her identity as a female has driven her to inspire women to follow their passions and believe in themselves. Her extracurricular interests include skiing, hiking, surfing, and spending time with friends and family.

SciAct Team

NCCN logo

NCCN Description

The NASA Community College Network (NCCN) at the SETI Institute proposes an initiative to bring NASA science subject matter experts (SMEs) and NASA science resources into the classrooms of the nation’s community college system. There are over 1000 U.S. public, accredited, degree-granting two-year institutions in the U.S. and of these, over 700 offer courses in astronomy, often to students from under-served populations, many of them the first in their families to go to college at all.

Simon bio photo

NCCN’s goal is to inspire community college students through their interaction with NASA subject matter experts. What better inspiration than hearing first hand from subject matter experts whose own journeys into astronomy began at community college!

Simon Steel, PhD NCCN PI