Breaking Stereotypes with We are CosmoQuest

We are CosmoquestThe question I get asked the most is “Why are you an astronomer?” The tone of this question varies from “I never thought I’d meet an astronomer? How did this happen?” to “Are you insane – that’s hard! Why would you do that!” to “Do astronomers have a reason to exist?” to, well…. reactions vary and it is clear I’m not the vision of what people expect an astronomer to look or sound like.

I’m not the only one who experiences this. I sometimes think the only people who look like “astronomers” are white, 50-something men who make poor wardrobe choices. The problem with this stereotype is that’s just not astronomy. We are young. We are old. We are men and we are women. We are all ethnicities and orientations and we have all different belief and non-belief systems.

I wish people could see the diversity of who is in astronomy, planetary science, and space exploration. I want to see the stereotype change, at least a little bit.

With the CosmoQuest community, last night we launched a new project called “We are CosmoQuest” that I’m hoping help make showcase the people in astronomy. It is an essay project that is collecting personal statements about why different people – people like you – are passionate about astronomy, planetary science, and/or space exploration. We are trying to show through the voices of the people in the field how all of us individually ended up engaged in these fields that we love either professionally or through amateur/citizen science/EPO/open source programs.

This project is just starting, and I hope you’ll consider becoming part of CosmoQuest, and sharing with us your story and your passion for space.

Podcaster / Writer / Assistant Research Professor
Technically skilled, communications-focused astronomer with experience in research, university teaching, public outreach, and popular science writing. Possesses passion for teaching astronomy informally and formally, extensive observational astronomy experience, and more than a decade of experience planning and implementing outreach programs. Seeks to build a career promoting science to the public, amateur astronomers, students (K-PhD), and public policy makers through outreach, activity-based teaching, and popular writing, while evaluating the impact of these activities on participant knowledge and attitude.

Specialties: Big Data, Photometry, Pulsating Variable Stars, Science Writing, Public Speaking, Podcasting, Blogging, Web Design, Graphic Design, Mass Communications, Narration


  1. Steve Locher February 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    I think the better question is “why would you not want to be an astronomer” or any type of scientist. In todays world, scientists are the explorers, discovering new worlds and new knowledge, replacing the Magellan’s and Columbus’ of past eras. This is especially true for astronomers and the like. Thank you Dr. Gay for your efforts and enthusiasm in presenting science in such a great, and important, format. Unfortunately, in today’s political and economic environment, we could use another thousand of you. An interesting read is the USC paper released this week entitled “Heads They Win, Tails We Lose”. The link is:

  2. Steve Locher February 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Sorry, it is a UCS paper, not USC! (union of concerned scientists, for us non-scientists!)

  3. Richard Gay March 9, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I’m sorry I’m not an astronomer. :(

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