Mentoring plays an instrumental role in the overall success and well-being of students. The invaluable support that I received from peers and mentors throughout my academic journey has shaped my commitment to outreach. I have actively mentored high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. Now at UW-Madison, I am leading a team of student researchers in the classification of periodic variables in open clusters.


I'll highlight my experience with two students who will soon be on the grad school market.

I met Atirath Dhara as a high school student during a public observing event. Together, we reviewed important skills such as building an understanding of Linux and Python, tutorials working with simulation codes, and how to effectively read scientific publications. After a summer working together, he presented a poster at the NASA Kepler & K2 Science Conference. Atirath is now a Regents Scholar with honors at UC Santa Cruz and will soon be applying for graduate school. Keep an eye out for him!


Tyler Barna is currently an undergraduate at Rutgers University. He reached out to me seeking advice on how to become involved in scientific research. After a summer spent strengthening his computational background, Tyler went on to join my research team. You can see his most recent scientific poster here. Tyler is a co-author of a recent publication searching for periodic variables within stellar clusters. Tyler is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in astrophysics and will be applying this year. Look out for him! 

Mentoring not only has enhanced the clarity and pedagogy in my communication, but it has also been a deeply rewarding experience. When I work to support others I feel a sense of renewed energy and optimism.

Click to enlarge photographs

Atirath stands in front of his scientific poster
Observing the sun with Alianza Charter School in Watsonville, Ca.
Giving a talk at Astronomy on Tap Trenton.
My 2019 presentation at Astronomy on Tap Philly
At the 2019 Kepler & K2 SciCon V
Alianza Charter School outreach event.
Attending the MESA Summer School in 2017. The friendships I made here have been long-lasting!
My 2019 presentation at Astronomy on Tap Trenton
Chemistry Rocks event for ages 5+ at Princeton University.
Participants learn about the principles
Astronomy demo for young girls at Prince


I grew up on a dairy farm as a first-generation American. For most of my childhood, I lived with my grandmother, and she played an instrumental role in my development. My grandmother was hardworking, courageous, and incredibly wise. Growing up in poverty, she had never been provided the opportunity to attend school and, as a result, she never learned to read. From my young perspective, learning to read offered a path to unexplored worlds that remained inaccessible to my grandmother. I still feel that same reverence for books today.

I was a non-traditional student with a nonlinear academic journey. One such example of this nonlinearity is the fact that I had children before I found my calling as an astronomer. I empathize with the challenges that non-traditional students face; both the technical ones and those rooted in socioeconomic inequity. I believe that impactful outreach stretches beyond mere technical training, establishing long-standing relationships with young academics and helping them build a network of support. 

I have been fortunate to work with a community of scientists who are committed to impactful outreach. This includes a network of peers and faculty, as well as working with associations like the UCSC Academic Excellence ProgramLamat Summer Research Program on High-Performance Computing in Astrophysics, APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP), National Society of Black Physicists, and Young Women's Conference in STEM.


If you host an outreach event, I encourage you to do it in an underserved community.

In this article, I explain why I think that is so important.