Welcome! My name is Christopher Crockett. And I’m a science geek. I write, I research, and I think about ways to improve science communication.
I certainly didn’t arrive here the way you’re supposed to. I took the scenic route instead. After several years as first an electrical engineer and then a high school physics teacher, I was lost.
But through teaching, I rediscovered my love for pure science.
At a crossroads, and with nothing to lose, I made a bold decision: I was going to get a Ph.D. and become an astronomer!
So I cracked open my old physics textbooks and spent the summer studying every page. I emailed every researcher at the University of Maryland asking if they could use a research assistant. I enrolled as a part-time student to learn everything I didn’t pick up the first time around. I took the Physics GRE and applied to graduate school.
And I didn’t get in.
Instead, I got hired to work on the NASA Deep Impact project – a mission to meet up with a comet and throw a chunk of copper the size of a dishwasher at it. Just to see what would happen. After a year, I reapplied to grad school.
This time it worked!
I drove across country to the University of California at Los Angeles—a bit of culture shock after 28 years on the east coast! But I managed. In between traffic jams and the occasional tremors, I settled in to a rhythm of studying, researching, and teaching.
Outside of classwork and research, I felt myself continually drawn back to some form of science communication. I ran the astronomy 101 labs, I oversaw the campus planetarium, I worked as part-time museum guide at Griffith Observatory. I even traveled to Hawai’i to develop, and teach, classes on digital imaging techniques at Maui Community College. Most of those kids were the first in their families to pursue any type of higher education.
Not content to do grad school the “normal way”, I jumped at an opportunity to conduct my dissertation research away from L.A. in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell Observatory—where Pluto was discovered—offered me a fellowship and I gladly accepted. For three years I searched for planets while exploring the Ponderosa pine forests of Northern Arizona.
The dissertation defense was a success! And a job offer at the U.S. Naval Observatory’s dark sky site kept me in Flagstaff.
But I’ve learned over the past year or so that I enjoy talking about astronomy much more than actually doing it.
So I started blogging the astronomy word of the week!
A conference panel discussing “careers in media for scientists” got me thinking. Here were people talking about making careers out of what I’d been dabbling in all along. They were communicating science!
I emailed one of the panelists after the conference and asked if she ever accepted articles written by astronomers. My first piece showed up a couple of months later!
And while I hate to leave you hanging, I have little more to tell you. This part of the story is still being written. But stay tuned. I have a feeling we’re getting to the best part…