I am an astronomer, writer, and podcaster focused on using new media to engage people in science and technology. Through CosmoQuest.org, I work to engage people in both learning and doing science. Join me as we map our Solar System in unprecedented detail through our citizen science projects, and learn astronomy through media productions like Astronomy Cast. Through this weekly podcast, Fraser Cain and I take you on a facts-based journey through our Cosmos, exploring not only what we know, but how we know it.
I am an astronomer, writer, and podcaster focused on using new media to engage people in science and technology. My most well known project may be Astronomy Cast, a podcast I co-host with Fraser Cain (Producer of Universe Today). Each week, Fraser and I work to take our listeners on a facts-based journey through the cosmos that explores not only what we know about the universe, but how we know it. We are know entering our eighth year of production, and thanks to the constant new discoveries coming out of the space science communities, we have no plans stop recording any time soon.
Getting people to learn science with Astronomy Cast is only half of the challenge. I want people to both learn and do science. Inspired by Fraser’s question, “Why can’t everyone access all the resources you have at a university?”, I’ve work with a great team of people to build the CosmoQuest virtual research facility. This second generation citizen science site is designed to provide the public with opportunities to participate in NASA related science programs, while also giving them access to online seminars, star parties, classes and more.
In addition to podcasting and getting people doing science, I also work to communicate astronomy to the public through this blog, through frequent public talks, and through popular articles. My writing has appeared in Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and Lightspeed magazines.
A public school kid through and through, I received a B.S. in Astrophysics from Michigan State University in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Texas in 2002. Today, I teach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Although my first research love was and remains variable stars, I have committed scientific adultery more than once to use my technology skills to explore the secrets of galaxy evolution, and planetary surface geology. Today, along with my astronomy science research, I also focus my efforts on trying to understand why people engage in science in their spare time.
While it may seem that I either live on campus or perhaps online, I actually live in a historic house in southern Illinois with my husband, two dogs, and a lot of books. Whenever I can, escape to horseback ride at Phancy Pharm.
There is an element of schizophrenia inherent in the life of any astronomer. Torn between the light and darkness, we must be the thoughtful instructor to our day weary students, and the nocturnal voyeur, diligently stalking the heavens. To the public we must be eloquent in our elocution of true wisdom, while among ourselves we stumble to find possible explanations for that which we don’t understand. We are researchers who think logically and live by reason, yet we are humans and are bound to our emotions. We are torn in every direction: research, family, teaching, learning, community and academic isolation. We are always driven to do more than we can possibly do and I personally always feel that there is something left undone
Why do I fight to wend my way through so many mazes and masks? Because astronomers are also free to learn and to discover the truths that no one has yet realized, and while we can never fully know all the answers, the pursuit of that next piece of the universal puzzle drives me to drive myself to meet the challenges of all the characters I am asked to play.
I am often asked about my belief system. I have created a page to answer that question here.
Requesting a Talk
I am available for talks, and I am happy to do more than one event at your location, but if I need to fly or travel over night, I do have a speaker’s fee ($5000, negotiable). Please understand, everything I do supports my research team, and I use my speaker’s fees to to pay other people’s salaries or to pay for travel to under-privileged locations. If you are interested in inviting me to your event or campus, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Topics I’m available to speak on:
- New Media: Podcasting, Blogging
- Social Media: Spreading Content through Social Networks, using G+, Analyzing Twitter Connections
- Astronomy & Space Science
- Citizen Science (current and historical)
- Skepticism and Society
- The Junction between Science and Religion