Where are you from?
I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and raised near the Bronx, N.Y. I moved out to Marina del Rey, Calif. 17 years ago to work in the field of marine biology for the Santa Monica Bay. I currently reside in Sherman Oaks, Calif., in the San Fernando valley.
Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.
My sense of wonder about space came at a very young age. At the age of 9 I used to sit in my window ledge and stare up into the night sky and dream about other worlds.
How did you end up working in the space program?
|"There is always a story to be told,|
even within the most technical of subjects."
Sort of by accident. After earning two Master's Degrees -- a Master of Science in Biological Sciences from Georgetown University and a Master of Arts In Public Communication and Writing from American University, I became a wildlife biologist and technical writer after I moved here to California in 1996. It cracks me up to know that I am probably one of very few people that has studied lactating Howler monkeys before coming to work here at NASA. I also worked with blue-footed boobies and a host of other birds and wildlife, working in conservation efforts, and rehabbing them after environmental disasters. Then, realizing that I was more social than others and tired of being stuck inside a lab all day, I became a writer for National Geographic. We covered many stories at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL). It was here that I thought it would be really cool to immerse myself in and actually be part of the excitement of space exploration where history is made everyday. I kind of reached NASA from a different path than most, but I have been here since 2002, and it has been very rewarding.
Who inspired you?
Many people inspired me, and continue to inspire me -- from scientists and engineers, to teachers, mentors and students. All play a role in inspiring me to continue promoting the work of NASA and space exploration as a whole.
What is a Science Writer?
To me, being a science writer enables me to actually work with my two greatest passions: science and public outreach. Combining scientific and technical expertise with outreach and writing means that many different audiences -- from scientists, to engineers to teachers to the public at large can appreciate and learn about the amazing scientific discoveries going on at NASA. Currently I write highlights, which chronicle science and research projects going on throughout NASA. I am the science writer for this site, as well as the science writer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Office of the Chief Scientist and Technologist website. I get to interview thousands of talented people, write features, conduct research and promote the work of scientists and engineers to various audiences, including teachers, other scientists and the public at large.
Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.
There are so many favorite moments. When you see someone's eyes light up with understanding and excitement after reading something I have written or taught them is really rewarding and very cool.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
I would definitely advise someone who wants to be in the field of science and science writing to read and learn about a topic as much as possible. And practice. Writing is rewriting, and the more you can interpret scientific material and broaden it for a wider audience, the better writer you will be. There is always a story to be told, even within the most technical of subjects.
What do you do for fun?
I love music -- both listening to it and playing it. I love the music of Jerry Garcia, Yes, Rush, classical, jazz, and anything from New Orleans, to name a few. I love to be outside. I love to hike, and be at the beach. I also love being with friends and having fun. I love to play with my 9-year-old daughter, who is already gaining an interest in science. I also am very involved with environmental issues. In 2011, I returned from the Gulf of Mexico, where I was asked to help in wildlife rehab efforts after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. We cleaned 523 animals in 17 hours. Anything rewarding, regardless of what it is, is what I like to do for fun.
If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?
Experiment. Try things and figure out what makes you tick. What excites you? What makes you think? Explore. By exploring the world around you, you can figure out what it is you love. Then you can do what you love.
These are two of the NASA websites Sam writes for:
Last Updated: 15 May 2013
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