mmsoares AT wisc.edu
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 am an active mentor for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. As a postdoctoral fellow at UW-Madison, I lead a team of student researchers in the classification of periodic variables in open clusters. Mentoring has enhanced the clarity and pedagogy in my science communication. Moreover, it is also a deeply rewarding experience, offering a renewed sense of energy and optimism about the exciting work that we do.
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 important role in my development. My grandmother was hardworking, courageous, and incredibly wise. Growing up in extreme poverty, she had never been provided the opportunity to learn to read. From my young perspective, reading provided an inspiring 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 discovered my latent interest in astrophysical research. I empathize with the challenges that non-traditional students face; both the technical ones and those rooted in systemic inequity. I believe that impactful outreach stretches beyond mere technical training, establishing long-standing relationships with mentees, and working to integrate them into the broader scientific community. During the pandemic, I formed the Astrono-Mom Conversation Series (ACS)---a series of monthly virtual meetings among mothers working as early-career astronomers/astrophysicists. Building communities that span our relevant axes of identity is an invaluable and challenging task. These conversations have the potential to mitigate feelings of isolation, while simultaneously strengthening our sense of identities as professional astronomers. Each month, we share helpful tips and strategies, job opportunities, and forge new opportunities for collaboration. More recently, I was delighted to learn that these discussions helped inspire the family-friendly terms set forth by the Chien-Shiung Wu Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship. Please reach out if you would like to join ACS.
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 Program, Lamat 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.