I didn't grow up wanting to be a scientist. First I wanted to be a trapeze artist then a poet then a road construction worker and finally, a high school math teacher. I graduated from Vassar college with a degree in theoretical mathematics, New York State credentials to teach middle and high school mathematics, and a resume full of summer programs and curriculum development. But when I graduated, I realized I wasn't ready to enter the classroom - there was so much more I wanted to learn. And so, upon graduation, I entered a Master's program in Astronomy at San Diego State University (SDSU). Here I was able to bring my passion for teaching to the labs I taught, developing lessons and lectures and eventually supporting the program as the lead TA.
And while I entered the program intending to return to my teaching career when I finished, along the way I fell in love with astronomical research. When I graduated in 2009, I accepted a position as a research and instrument analyst at the Space Telescope Science Instrument (STScI), enabling scientific research for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Besides a little program to calculate the roots of a quadratic polynomial I wrote on my TI-83 calculator in high school, I didn't program until I started my master's program at (SDSU). There I learned Fortran 77 and IDL. When I started at STScI, I learned Python and was instantly drawn to the flexibility, interoperability, and interactive plotting.
At STScI I was constantly taking over projects from other people and handing off projects. In these exchanges I came to recognize the importance of preserving the history of a project, the automation and documentation of tasks, and the importance of being able to reproduce previous results.
Half way through my time at STScI I took a Software Carpentry course. This fundamentally changed the way I worked because it gave me the tools to begin to implement what I thought was missing from my work flow. I learned about functions, breaking my code into pieces for reusability. I learned about version control to track the history of my project and make it easy to collaborate and share.
Astronomy, Computing, & Education
I quickly became a Software Carpentry instructor, going through the first ever instructor training. What I learned when I took Software Carpentry made me a better astronomer and I wanted to share this with my fellow scientists. As an early member of the Software Carpentry community, I helped develop early lessons in Python and Git/GitHub, I curated some lessons as they were communally developed and I taught scientists about the things that I think are important in the community: reproducibility, automation, reusability.
As I was starting my PhD at UC Davis, I because the maintainer of the Python lesson and contributed to the formation of the Software Carpentry Foundation. I also taught the first Software Carpentry at the AAS winter meeting. In my second year, I founded a code review group at UC Davis as a forum to discuss our code and share our knowledge. I shared my experience in forming this group with the community as the key note speaker at the Python in Astronomy conference in 2017.
I now run code review weekly and the Software Carpentry at the AAS annually. I am also the PI of a project to create a Data Carpentry astronomy lesson. In this work I have found the intersection of the different paths I have taken as an educator, a data analyst, and an astrophysicist.