What first sparked your interest in space and science?
The Moon. I used to walk in my neighborhood at night, looking at it. It always looked so peaceful, so mysterious yet so familiar. It was something about being able to see it but not get to it that sparked my desire to learn more about space. Looking up at the night sky has always prompted me to pause and think about everything that’s bigger than I am. I’ve always loved that feeling. I still make a point to look up at the Moon regularly, like seeing the face of an old friend.
How did you end up working in the space program?
By accident, really. I started in the Goddard Office of Communications while still pursuing my undergraduate degrees. Like many kids, I had dreams of being an astronaut, but a fear of math class and roller coasters motivated me to explore other career options. I was so excited to learn that a job existed at NASA where I could use my skills as a communicator. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of Pathways, NASA’s work-study program, and so I thought I was interviewing for an internship. That internship was actually a position, and that position turned into an awesome career. NASA is full of opportunities.
Tell us about your job. What do you do?
A little bit of everything! At the core, I work with scientists and help them craft the stories they want to share. Science, and astrophysics in particular, is fascinating but can deal with concepts that are difficult to grasp, let alone explain. My job is to take that complex science and frame it in a way that people without science backgrounds can understand. I feel fortunate that my job has given me the opportunity to work with a lot of scientists researching exoplanets, which I think is one of the most fascinating areas of study right now. I also get to work with some of NASA’s most creative people — writers, producers, and animators — to come up with innovative ways to share this amazing science. The work NASA scientists are doing is truly remarkable, and I love being able to share it.
What's one piece of advice you would give to others interested in a similar career?
Don’t short change yourself. There are plenty of paths to get into science that don’t require taking the direct route. I was the kid who got math tests handed back to her upside down, and now I’m telling stories about NASA’s astrophysics division. Every day I’m surrounded by people who teach me something new. You never really leave school when you work at NASA, you just don’t have to take exams anymore (though you should still take notes). That’s a pretty good deal, I think! You don’t need an extensive science background to succeed in this job, you just need a desire to learn.