A Life in Science

This month I
travelled to Dublin, Ireland to participate in the Creative Minds series and
Inspirefest. Creative Minds is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, and invites
prominent U.S. artists, writers, filmmakers, digital culture innovators and
musicians to share their experience with young Irish audiences. It was an honor
to be asked by America’s acting ambassador to Ireland, Reece Smyth, to participate.
I shared the stage with Nicole Stott, a veteran astronaut with two spaceflights
and 104 days living and working in space. Together we explored the future of
breakthrough research and innovation, space exploration, increasing diversity
in STEM fields, and the importance of science communication at the most well-attended
Creative Minds event in the history of the series.

following day I spoke at Inspirefest, a unique international festival of
technology, science, design and the arts, and was honored to meet with
Ireland’s new Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the event. I was asked by the
festival’s founder, Ann O’Dea, to sit down with her and engage in a fireside
chat titled “A Life in Science.” I had the opportunity to share how my curiosity
about science started at a very young age. Children need to be encouraged to
ask questions and get excited about the world around them. STEM fields rely on
everyone—the young and the young at heart—to ask questions and seek answers.
Unique perspectives are vital to new discoveries. As an English major who
transitioned to astrophysics, I’m living proof that there is no set pathway or
start date for a STEM career.


Mark Ferguson, Head of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Photo credit: SFI

While in
Dublin, I had the opportunity to meet with Mark Ferguson, head of Science Foundation
Ireland. Partnerships are important in a globalized world, and international
collaborations are essential to tackling our greatest global science and
engineering challenges. The scientific mysteries that we seek to unravel don’t
stop at a nation’s borders or the water’s edge. 

I fell in love with Dublin when I
spoke at the Science Foundation Ireland Science Summit last November, and my
appreciation has only grown after this trip. True to its name, Inspirefest
certainly inspired me. It was a great opportunity to reflect on the people who
shaped me early in life. I even had the chance to visit Co Clare, where my
mother’s family was from. It’s always beneficial to look at the world from
other perspectives. One exciting new point of view I discovered was experiencing
a Fourth of July celebration abroad at the with the American Chamber of
Commerce in Dublin. And speaking of different perspectives, I’m proud to say I
managed to drive on the correct side of the road my entire trip!