I get Questions

mailer_chinesetopBeing the “token astronomer” in some of my circles means that I get asked all kinds of interesting questions. Like this:

“You’re an astronomer! Tell me – is it normal for your boobs to actually be separate entities outside your space suit? I mean, I assume that’s for science reasons.”

With the picture at right from a video game.

Well I figured this is a question best answered with some examples…

What do you say, Suni Williams?
How about you, Sally Ride?
Eileen Collins want to weigh in?
How about you, Mae Jemison?


Oh wait you can't see it well with Svetlana Savitskaya...
Oh wait you can’t see it well with Svetlana Savitskaya…
So let's ask Suni again!
So let’s ask Suni again!

So yeah, illustrators. STAHP.

I’m not even going to get into this one…





Catching up to 2015

Back when I was writing a bit more regularly, I was posting monthly updates here. Since I haven’t been doing so and have just gotten this site running again, here’s a list of what I’ve been doing (other than teaching and moving and teaching some more) in 2015:



EDIT (10/11): Oooo I almost forgot. I was recently a guest on a couple of podcasts, both recorded at Dragon*Con 2015. Here is a short interview with Richard Drumm for 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast, and I get to ask the artists a question on Mad Art Cast!

Just recently we got our first ever family photo. Both furry mammals in the same frame without them freaking out!


More to come very soon…

Was hacked, but now I’m back!

Hello, everyone. So this site has been lying dormant for quite some time. As you may know, I finished up my postdoc in Illinois, spent some time in New York, and finally made it to New Hampshire where I’m now a professor! And I’ve been so busy that unfortunately, I couldn’t get to my site which was, it turned out, used by hackers to do who-knows-what. I got some great help from Dreamhost and now I’m back, though with a slightly slimmed down site with less bells and whistles, and hopefully hack free!

I look forward to getting back to writing in general, though my life right now seems to be wake up, crossfit, walk dog, work work work, sleep, wake up, crossfit, walk dog, work work work… etc. At some point I’ll catch up maybe?

Please keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus for now!

(Updated 10/12/15 with featured image CC BY-SA 2.0 Jennie)

I can’t get enough of #GirlsWithToys

And no, as some of you pointed out when this whole thing started, this is not anything lewd.

Hanging out on the GBT during my first observing run.
Hanging out on the GBT during my first observing run.

On Saturday morning, I was on a city bus in Pittsburgh heading to the airport. I had just wrapped up a week at the Intel International Science and Engineering Festival where I was the “adult-in-charge” from our regional fair’s delegation. I was catching up on social media, something I’m slowly getting better at doing again these days, when I noticed an NPR story circulating in my feed. Turns out, a well-known astrophysicist had described scientists as “boys with toys” in an NPR piece, and some of the scientific ladies I knew were not too happy to be erased, again.

Well, heck, I get the sentiment at its core. I’m sure I have myself compared astronomers to “little kids with toys” when I talk about our excitement at using the amazing telescopes we’ve built. Since I focused on radio astronomy instrumentation specifically in graduate school, I felt that our relationships with our instruments were pretty special, especially for those involved in their designing and building.

Sometimes your "toy" is an old SUN workstation and a chalkboard. Ft. Gail Zasowski
Sometimes your “toy” is an old SUN workstation and a chalkboard. Ft. Gail Zasowski

I was on a city bus with fairly good signal, so I could access a few photos from when I did build and use telescopes every day, and tweeted them with, why not, #GirlsWithToys. I wasn’t sure I could make a cogent argument for why the “boys with toys” comment affected me so much, but I could defiantly show the world that ladies love their science “toys,” too. Well, I wasn’t the only one, as several astronomers, including Erin Ryan and Alessondra Springmann, starting posting their telescope pictures as well. Astronomers can’t have all the fun, so I encouraged all scientists to post their instruments as well. A quick search showed that Kate Clancy was already on it with a few posts earlier that morning.

And then, something happened. It exploded. Something had been simmering in all of us, I suppose, because the tag became inundated with amazing pictures and posts of women in various STEM fields posing with or showing off their favorite scientific instruments, data, and, yes, even toys. That evening, I finally got some words together and posted over at Skepchick.

That time I rolled out a MEELLION miles of cable for our antennas in South Africa
That time I rolled out a MEELLION miles of cable for our antennas in South Africa

It’s almost four days later, and the hashtag is still going strong. Thousands of women have shared their stories and their science. Several media outlets have picked it up. And, of course, there’s been the usual backlash about “women on their periods” and other such nonsense. No, really, that was an actual comment.

But we’re not deterred. Science has a gender problem (and a race problem and an accessibility problem and a host of other problems). Those of us who deal with the regular progression of microaggressions in our careers are going to continue to point them out. I can only hope that makes the community of science stronger and more welcoming.

I’ve been organizing my old photos a bit as well over the last few weeks, and this hashtag has prompted me to dig into the archive and pull out all of my favorite #GirlsWithToys photos, not just those easily accessbile on my phone from a bus. I’ve collected memories from 2003, when I did my first research project, until 2012 when I got my PhD from the University of Virginia, and it was really nice flipping through all of those memories. There are LOTS and LOTS of pictures of cables and parts and circuits and antennas, but I didn’t include those. The pictures I chose show the instruments, sure, but they also tell the stories of some of the ladies that helped make them possible, or who used them to do great science. Check out my little trip down memory lane at Flickr. And thanks!

Winter Wrap-Up

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Fall Semester Rolls on…

Say hello to NoisyDog!
Say hello to NoisyDog!

Well it’s a little over halfway through the Fall semester, and I’m hanging in there with class, work projects, and lots and lots of job application. Yes, that’s right, it’s #willastronomfornoms time again! Much love to everyone who’s been forwarding me interesting job applications and helping with letters and references and all that jazz. Oh, I even got to be co-PI on an NSF proposal that was recently submitted.

OH AND I GOT A DOGGIE! She’s been dominating my Instagram feed and has her own Facebook page if you’d like to see.

Here’s been my work on the internet in the past two months. Favorites are bolded:


A while back, I also wrote this piece for the Daily Beast and have forgotten to link to it until now. D’oh! Check out, About That ‘World-Ending Solar Storm… from July.


There were also some acts of whimsy that I still have mixed feelings about…

That’s all for now!