Shared Academic Experience: Class of 2023 and Transfer Students

Programs During New Student Orientation

This year's Shared Academic Experience consists of two programs:

  • Thursday, September 12: Culminating lecture by Professor Isler at 7:30 P.M. in Hopkins Center, Spaulding Auditorium (attendance is required; please bring your Dartmouth ID).
  • Friday, September 13: Star (and planet!) Gazing on the Green with Astronomy Faculty on the Dartmouth Green.


Each year, a member of the Dartmouth faculty is asked to curate a Shared Academic Experience to meaningfully engage incoming students and encourage community dialogue and personal reflection.

This year, Jedidah Isler, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will discuss the scientific details of the recent and historic black hole shadow image and use it as a metaphor for the pursuit of other unknowns on our journey.

As part of New Student Orientation, you will engage in the "Experience" through a Canvas website and a lecture. More information soon!

Background Information

From Professor Isler 

Quiet as it's kept [footnote: my small tribute to the great literary genius, Toni Morrison], my whole career has really been in pursuit of one thing: the unknown. I am mesmerized by the seemingly endless mystery of the unknown. Since I was a child, I've felt that the best of what existence has to offer can be found in the outer space of the Universe and the inner space of humanity. (This, of course, is my biased opinion.) It's no surprise, then, that I've crafted a career that allows me to investigate and contribute to these dual passions with equal intensity and excitement.

My hope is that during this, our Shared Academic Experience, we can inhabit a space together on the cutting edge of astrophysical discovery while interrogating what it means (and what it takes!) to pursue the unknown individually and collectively. The former is my chosen discipline. The latter is something we all have to do at some point in our lives and the beginning of your college experience is one of the best moments to engage your own personal pursuit(s) of the unknown. Together, they form the theme of my lecture, Supermassive Black Holes and the Pursuit of the Unknown.

We'll immerse ourselves in path-breaking astrophysical research by investigating the first image of a black hole (shadow) ever taken by humankind. This image, courtesy of the Event Horizon Telescope, is a watershed moment for all of us, not only because of what we can learn about the Universe itself, but as a moment to reflect on the importance of collective pursuit of a shared unknown. Then, we'll turn our attention to the more general pursuit of the unknown that we all face in our lives and what it means to take up that challenge. It's true that none of us will travel identical paths to self-discovery, but we can think about critical aspects one might need to make their way through that unpredictable and often chaotic journey.


 Dr. Jedidah Isler

Dr. Jedidah Isler is an assistant professor of astrophysics at Dartmouth College, where she studies hyperactive, supermassive black holes. Her scientific research explores the physics of blazars – supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies that create particle jets moving at nearly the speed of light. She is a proud alumna of Norfolk State University's Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences (DNIMAS) Program and the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program. In 2014, she became the first African American woman to receive her Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Yale University. Her innovative and award-winning research has been supported by fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the Ford Foundation, and she has appeared on numerous radio and television programs including NPR's All Things Considered and TED Radio Hour, the Science Channel's How the Universe Works, and the 2016 National Geographic feature miniseries MARS. She has also been featured on DeRay McKesson's podcast, Pod Save the People. A 2015 TED fellow and a 2017 Senior TED Fellow, more than three million viewers have watched her TED talks.

Dr. Isler is an outspoken advocate of inclusion and empowerment in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and is the creator and host of "Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM.". Her non-profit organization, The STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to using STEM as a pathway for social justice and has developed a variety of initiatives including the #VanguardSTEM online platform and web series.

Dr. Isler has also worked with museums, libraries, planetariums, schools, and universities across the country to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. In 2015, she presented to the Obama-era President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Currently she serves on the American Institute of Physics TEAM-UP Task Force, which focuses on identifying and removing barriers for Black students in physics and astronomy. Her advocacy and research have won her recognition as a Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow by the National Academy of Science, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and one of The Root Magazine's 100 Most Influential African Americans.