I am an astronomer, technologist, and creative focused on using new media to engage people in learning and doing science. Join me as we map our Solar System in unprecedented detail through our citizen science projects at CosmoQuest.org, and learn astronomy through media productions like Astronomy Cast.
My time is split in 3 directions: communicating science, writing software to enable science, and doing a variety of different research projects.
I am perhaps most well known as co-host of the long-running Astronomy Cast podcast, which a 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 now entering our seventeenth year of production, and thanks to the constant new discoveries coming out of the space science communities, we have no plans to 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 Astronomy Cast, I also write and host Escape Velocity Space News, post science articles and essays on Medium, write articles that have appeared in Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and Lightspeed magazines. I’ve had the chance to appear on TV shows like The Universe and on the Weather Channel.
I am a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and director of CosmoQuest. 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.
I live in small(ish) town USA, and spend my spare time trying to maintain the 1893 Victorian house I share with my husband. We have three rescued Australian Shepherds that do their best to make sure there are always plenty of holes in the yard to fill, fur balls to vacuum, and cuddly love to share. I’m also an avid cyclist! I enjoy the extensive bike trails of the greater St Louis Metro areas, and often take my folding bike on adventures to cities near and far. I spent a lot of my adult life riding horses, but at this time don’t have my own horse. (I will, however, gladly ride a slow, friendly beast if I’m given the opportunity).
Like so many other members of Gen-X, I have made a habit of turning my hobbies into side-hustles. I love to read, and when I’m not listening to an audio book while getting other tasks done, I’m narrating books and short stories for Escape Pod or on Twitch.tv, or reading drafts to provide science advising for authors. If you need a narrator or science consultant, drop me an email: starstryder at gmail dot com.
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. I grew up in Westford, Massachusetts. While I owe a lot to a solid education, I may owe even more to extracurricular opportunities. I was lucky enough (and sold enough candy bars) to attend Space Camp/Academy as a kid. I also was an exchange student to the USSR and worked at the 6-meter telescope in the Caucus mountains during my junior year of high school. As a senior, I was an intern at Haystack observatory. Mentoring matters, and I hope to pay forward all the opportunities I was given.
I am often asked about my belief system. I have created a page to answer that question here.