Livin' It categories: Outer Space
Postdoctoral Research Associate in Astronomy, Lehigh University
Was there a particular person or event that influenced your career choice? Definitely. My dad had a hand in it, thanks to his interest in astronomy. In particular, we would watch meteor showers together when I was younger. He also bought me a book on searching for life in the universe when I was 13, which was awesome. The movie Contact (based on the book by Carl Sagan) also heavily influenced my interest in astronomy.
What has surprised you about your career? Is it like you imagined it would be? While I knew astronomy wasn’t just about getting pretty pictures of our amazing universe, I didn’t really realize how much time would be spent analyzing data. It requires more patience and computer programming skills than I had realized.
What are your favorite aspects of your job? I like that every day can be different. My research focuses on the detection and characterization of planets around other stars (extra-solar planets), and these days, new planets are always being discovered. That keeps things exciting, and it means I am always learning something new. I also appreciate my job’s flexibility, because I don’t have set hours and I can leave work early or come late if I need to!
What do you like to do outside of work? I like watching reality TV shows, like America’s Got Talent and The Bachelorette. I also like to hang out with friends and go out to eat or to the movies or the beach.
Coffee shop drink of choice? Chai tea or hot chocolate.
Bio: Before she wanted to be an astronomer, Knicole thought about being an archaeologist, a paleontologist, or a meteorologist! She was influenced by movies like Jurassic Park and Twister. However, in college, she pursued a bachelor’s degree in physics from The College of New Jersey, and then received a master’s and a doctorate degree in astronomy from University of Florida. During a typical day in her job, she writes emails, analyzes data for various projects, and does some planning for her next projects, whether they be research-related or an outreach activity. Recently, Knicole has been trying to get more experience with teaching and outreach since she has been focusing heavily on research for a while. She does this work in an office, although she can technically work anywhere that she can get an internet connection! Knicole also sometimes attends conferences or goes to mountaintops to use the telescopes to collect data. To do the work that Knicole does, you need good writing skills, speaking skills, critical thinking skills, knowledge of at least one programming language, the ability to motivate yourself, and a general thirst for knowledge. Knicole’s personal role models are Carl Sagan and her parents!