IYA 2009 – All in the name

Posted in IYA2009 at 18:57 by Kathleen

“Astrophysicist”. That word for some reason always makes an impression on people outside the business. I normally use “astronomer” when people ask me what I do. Well, unless I want to be left alone, then “astrophysicist” is a good way to end a conversation.

I once did an experiment in a dance club while on travel on the mainland. The guy would engage in a chat with me and invariably he would ask what I did for a living. When the answer was “astrophysicist”, that was a killer. The only way to bring interest back was to say that I lived in Hawai’i. If “Hawai’i” came before “astrophysicist” then all the giggly interest generated by “Hawai’i” vanished when “astrophysicist” was spoken. It was a quite amusing social experiment actually.

I am remembering that anecdote because last night while I was visiting with family I had not seen in a while, and that I do not meet very often, my young cousin told me how fascinated she was about my career. She does not really know what I am doing, but “astrophysicist” and “PhD” were clearly the key elements of her fascination; it had nothing to do with the stars.

If it can inspire her to continue on with her education and reach for her dreams (nothing to do with science in her case), then I am not going to burst her bubble. I am sure we will have a chance to talk again ten years from now.

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