By IndyKids Staff
Dr. Allyson Sheffield is a professor and researcher in the field of astronomy. On August 21, she hosted a solar eclipse viewing party at LaGuardia Community College.
IndyKids: How would you describe your job?
Allyson Sheffield: First, it’s awesome! My job is a combination of teaching physics and astronomy classes and carrying out research to study how our galaxy formed. Students want to know, “What is life?”, “Are we alone?” and “Why are we here?” These questions are challenging, and nothing is more satisfying than hearing students debate and critically defend their views on these questions using evidence.
What’s the coolest thing about your career?
Astronomy is evolving rapidly: there are now all-sky catalogs that are publicly and freely available, which let anyone comb through the data and find something new. I also travel to observatories and observe stars one by one, and nothing tops a clear night on Kitt Peak in Arizona!
How would it help to have more women and girls involved in astronomy?
The more women we have in STEM fields, the easier it becomes for girls to feel proud of excelling in math and science and not to be afraid to ask questions. Astronomy has come a long way, but there are still far fewer women with advanced degrees in astronomy than men. It was a deep love of math that led me to astronomy, so it’s important to encourage girls to study math and programming.
Do you have any advice for kids who want to become astronomers?
Reach out to a local observatory, astronomer’s club or college and volunteer to do research with them. If you can, get a small telescope of your own and get to know the night sky. There are great YouTube channels hosted by astronomers, too. Check out Space With Sarah. She rocks! In your free time, learn to code! Did I mention that programming is fun?