Research Associate, U. Maryland
What's the coolest thing about EPOXI?
I really like the aspect of discovery. When the spacecraft flies past Hartley 2, it will only be the 5th comet imaged up-close. Who knows what it will look like?
Why do you like working at the University of Maryland?
The University of Maryland is a great place for research, and sharing our work with students and the general public is important to the University community.
What is your job on the EPOXI mission?
I am concentrating on the dust of comet Hartley.
How did you end up in Astronomy?
My Dad took me and my siblings to star parties and to other amateur astronomer events in my hometown, Davenport, IA. That gave me an interest in the stars and planets. Then, in high school, I had a great physics teacher, who inspired me to consider science as a career. So, I put the two together and started my astronomy career at Iowa State University.
What do you do in your spare time?
When I'm not geeking out with computers on my home network, I like to cook and go for hikes.
Who in your life inspired you?
It was my high school physics teacher, Mark Richter. He was very enthusiastic about physics. Even though the science was as basic as F=ma, I liked it, which inspired me to consider a career in the natural sciences.
What is one yet-to-be achieved life goal?
Visit New Zealand. The scenery looks so great, I just have to go see it in person.
Were you science-oriented as a young person?
I was a science-oriented kid. My parents were usually annoyed with me whenever I did something I should not have because "I just wanted to see what would happen." Whether it was experiments on my siblings or burning things that I definitely should not be burning, I was always fascinated with cause and effect.
What was your favorite book as a young person?
There are two books in particular that I remember liking: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.
What did you want to become when you were young?
I remember in the second grade that I wanted to be an artist like my Dad. I'm positive now that I'm better off in the sciences.
If you weren't working in space exploration now, what might you be doing?
I might be a condensed matter physicist. As an undergraduate I worked with Dr. David Vaknin at Ames Laboratory on X-ray scattering experiments. The goal was to understand how lipids organize themselves on a molecule-by-molecule level. The lipids we used are similar to those that make up cell membranes in our bodies.