Lily Lau
Credit: Lily Lau

How did you become a NASA citizen scientist?

I wish to leave a footprint in the scientific community, and becoming a NASA citizen scientist will help me do that.

What are your favorite citizen science projects to work on?

My favorite citizen science projects are Stardust@home, Disk Detective, Solar Stormwatch, Planet Hunters and Supernova Hunters. These projects help unlock the secrets of the universe, and I want to be part of that.

What do you do when you’re not doing science with NASA? Tell us about your job and your hobbies!

When I am not doing science projects, I spend time on photography and making abstract art. Taking cool animal and insect pictures is a challenge, but it is what I enjoy most. I can’t ask a monkey at a zoo, or a butterfly in the wild, to pose for me, so I just have to have patience. I still do other types of photography, like nature and street photos, as well. And the reason why I love making abstract art so much is because it allows my brain to go wild!

What have you discovered or learned as a NASA citizen scientist?

I have learned to expect the unexpected. As a NASA citizen scientist, I have found that I can help NASA's professional scientists, like Marc Kuchner, to find debris disk candidates, which could be home to extrasolar planets. It was a dream come true! Throughout the years with Disk Detective, Marc has given me many opportunities to grow from a newbie to an advanced-level classifier. I was a moderator for a while, in which answering volunteers’ questions was part of my duties. For those difficult questions, in order to give the best answers, I would do some research first and gather the best information. In the process of searching for answers, I have gained new knowledge as well. I was also given a chance to vet and select potential candidates. I would never have expected that!

One thing I have learned when doing Stardust@home projects is to just have fun. With that in mind, I would not give up, even if I search through hundreds of focus movies without finding any potential dust particles. “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.” – Jim Westphal

What first sparked your interest in space and science?

Star Trek series and movies! They inspired me to see beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and gaze into the universe.

What advice would you give to others who might want to volunteer with NASA?

Join projects with a curious mind. Expect the unexpected. You might be the discoverer of an exoplanet, an asteroid, or even the elusive ripples of spacetime! Just dive into a project, have fun, and leave your footprint in science. Remember to ask questions in a forum when you feel lost. Be patient, don’t give up if you don’t find something right away.

Who inspires you?

Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking. They helped open my eyes to the universe and beyond.