Mary Beth Laychak is the Outreach Program Manager at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mary Beth has an undergraduate degree in astronomy and astrophysics from Penn State University and a masters degree in educational technology from San Diego State. Her passions include astronomy, sharing astronomy with the public and astronomy based crafts.
Since childhood I have been fascinated by astronomy. When I realised that I could use maths and computers to do fun things with astronomy, I knew I was hooked for life. I never grew out of it and now I am lucky enough to be a professional astrophysicist. As part of my role with Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) I try to find novel ways to engage the public in science by using astronomy. This has taken the form of creating citizen science projects like Agent Exoplanet, interactive educational web apps like Star in a Box, and online community events like Show Me Stars.
The global education hub for LCOGT is based in Cardiff University where I am an honourary lecturer/adjunct faculty in the School of Physics and Astronomy. One of the enjoyably parts of this position is supervising BSc. and MPhys. level undergraduate projects. This year I had 4 project students investigating extrasolar planets. I am very proud that 2 of my former project students have gone on to do PhDs.
In addition, I am part of the Schools Engagement Team and assist with the outreach of the University. We have recently been awarded funding by the Welsh Government’s National Science Academy to run the programme Universe in the Classroom, inspiring children and teachers with Universe in a Box kits and stellar role models, across Wales. Universe in the Classrom is run in partnership with the international project Universe Awareness.
I co-chair the IAU task force for children and schools, under the guidance of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). Our aim is to help people in astronomically developing countries to engage with and inspire children and teachers.
I regularly appear on the BBC radio wales programmes, Science Cafe and Eleri Sion Show. I have served as guest judge for the national Debating Matters competition. Engaging with the public is fun and I have been lucky enough to do it in several pubs with Ignite Cardiff and Bright Club.
Being a life long fan of Doctor Who, I’ve been delighted to have give Science of Doctor Who talks in St Louis Science Center, and Cardiff Museum.
Currently I am working at how we make the LCOGT global telescope network exciting and accessible to a diverse audience, and what tools we need to make the most of its potential. What particularly concerns me is using the power of astronomy to inspire people who would not normally be interested in science.
I love music and play the lute. Part of me thinks that makes me closer to a renaissance astronomer, like Galileo.
You can find my blog over at Dark Matter Sheep, where I talk about science, music, films, coding, and silly things.
This week features Amanda Bauer. Amanda is a research astronomer and outreach officer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) based in Sydney, Australia. She started this 50/50 role one year ago and is still exploring how to maximise both research and science communication without working WAY too much!
Her research explores variations in how galaxies form, how they live their lives, and how they evolve into the diverse array of galaxy species we see today. She uses surveys with thousands or hundreds of thousands of galaxies, like GAMA and the SAMI Galaxy Survey, to investigate what physical processes regulate star formation inside galaxies that live in different cosmic environments.
Her passion for science communication through her personal @astropixie account has lead to her ability to do this as 50% of her official job. As the first outreach officer at the AAO, she is developing a strategy to capture and communicate the excitement of new astronomical discoveries and innovative engineering feats occurring within the AAO and the astronomical community.
This week features Edward Gomez. Edward is the education director for Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. As part of this role, he is making a telescope control web interface for education observing programmes run by LCOGT and its partners. He is interested in making innovative ways for people to use LCOGT’s robotic telescopes for education and science communication. His research interests are in stellar winds and Near Earth Objects. Edward normally tweets at @zemogle.
Dr. Karen Masters is an astronomer studying extragalactic astronomy at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth. She uses information from large surveys of the sky to search for clues about how galaxies formed and evolve over cosmic time. This includes information on the shapes and types of galaxies provided by citizen scientists via the Galaxy Zoo project (www.galaxyzoo.org). Dr. Masters has been a member of the Galaxy Zoo science team since 2008, and Project Scientist since 2013.
Karen is also a member of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey – the survey which provided the original images for Galaxy Zoo. She is Director of Outreach and Public Engagement for SDSS as well as having leading role in the MaNGA (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at APO) survey which has just recently started observations on the Sloan telescope.
Karen normally tweets about her adventures in astronomy research as @KarenLMasters.