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 currently mentor two students, Atirath Dhara and Tyler Barna.
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 was just accepted as a Regents Scholar with honors to UC Santa Cruz.
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 on a recent publication searching for periodic variables within stellar clusters. Tyler is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in astrophysics and will be applying next year.
Mentoring not only has enhanced the clarity and pedagogy in my communication, it has also been a deeply rewarding experience. When I work to support others I feel a sense of renewed energy and optimism.
I grew up on a dairy farm as a first-generation American. My grandparents were proud and hardworking; literacy, however, was a luxury far removed from their rural upbringing. Remote worlds inaccessible to those around me were revealed in my ever-growing collection of books. I read voraciously and this cultivated a love of learning. It was not until later in life, after the birth of my children, that I would encounter a latent fascination with astrophysics. This interest was fueled by the stirring works of Cecelia Payne Gaposchkin and Sir Arthur Eddington.
As a non-traditional student with a nonlinear academic journey, I empathize with the challenges non-traditional students face. As these scholars embark upon their academic journeys, I feel privileged to provide guidance and support. I believe that truly impactful outreach must stretch beyond the mere communication of science. In my opinion, the most valuable outreach one can perform is to establish long-lasting relationships with scholars in underrepresented communities. This requires emotional intelligence, as students not only encounter technical hurdles but also bottleneck-inducing socioeconomic barriers.
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 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.
This article articulates why I think that is so important.