Start with a bang.


This isn’t her first appearance in this blog either. Know her name: Dr. Jedidah Isler. I didn’t know this but we are from the same area. She was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was born and raised in Hampton just across the bay. Dr. Isler earned her Bachelor’s degree in physics from Norfolk State University in Virginia, received her first Maser’s at
Fisk University in Tennessee, then her second Master’s at Yale, and later her PhD from Yale, just in 2014. She is well-known and renowned in the field for her research in blazars and quasars which are supermassive black holes powering an extremely strong jet of crazy energetic particles, radiating light that is detected here on Earth and then studied by experts like her. Dr. Isler had a fairly normal life growing up, in fact it seems she was somewhat similar to me! We both grew up adoring the stars but never really knew how to get into such a specific path. Though I’ll admit she sounds like she was a way better student than I was. She genuinely was always curious and pursued valuable interests and opportunities but not without ever noticing she was the only black woman there. Because of this, Dr. Isler fought more obstacles to get to this point today,

After earning her PhD from Yale in 2014, as the first African American woman to do so in physics, she went on to be a National Science Foundation Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow for 3 years at Vanderbilt University while she continued her research. Today – as in right now – she works at Dartmouth College as an assistant professor of astrophysics! She is not a trailblazer yet. She is currently trailblazing – at this very moment (*ALSO she is hiring!)! I’d like to honor her strength, courage, and hard work by including her as not only an amazing female astrophysicist you should know but also as the first amazing female astrophysicist you should know.


Dr. Fabiola Gianotti is currently the director-general of CERN – The European Organization for Nuclear Research – based in Switzerland. The CERN facility is mainly to study particle accelerations and mechanisms with particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The CERN facility is appropriately famous for several ground breaking discoveries since beginning operation including the famous 2012 discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson particle.
CERN is seriously a display of amazing capabilities. The LHC is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator and is made of MILES long construction of magnets. It’s a big deal. And Dr. Gianotti is a big deal because she’s in charge of it. Not only that, but she is the first female to do so. She is currently serving her second term of office as the director-general. Dr. Gianotti received her PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Milan in Italy in 1989. She has authored and co-authored over 500 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has been awarded several very prestigious awards including the Medal of Honor of the Niels Bohr Institute of Copenhagen in 2013. As a woman pursuing a career in a male-dominated field, it was no easy thing to push through barriers to get to where she is today. Today, Dr. Gianotti aims to provide ample support for her colleagues, both male and female, who have children. Many women in physics struggle to maintain a successful balance between a rewarding career in physics and having a family and sometimes feel forced to choose between the two. Dr. Gianotti speaks from some personal experience and women who work in this field can surely relate (I can). Hats off to Dr. Gianotti, helping the workplace become women-friendlier!


Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell is, like, a personal hero of mine. Well, all of these women are but I have a soft spot for Jocelyn because we both got wowza’d by the same thing – pulsars. Dr. Burnell, however, was the first one ever to be wowza’d by pulsars. She was even a part of naming the darn things!
In 1967, Dr. Burnell was a PhD student at University of Cambridge in the UK when she noticed a “bit of scruff” on her chart recorder while investigating the radio sky. She was taken aback by this detection and half heartedly pursued confirming the detection, thinking it was probably nothing. Suffering from imposter syndrome, she would surely believe she made a silly error before believing she just discovered a new astrophysical object. Her graduate supervisor would end up partially believing the blip, which turned out to be extremely regular in its repetition and behavior, to be extraterrestrial intelligence. So much so, he coined the object “LGM” for little green men. Later, it was understood to be an astrophysical object and today, known as a pulsar. A furiously rotating neutron star, spewing beams of light towards Earth, like a light house; A beacon of light that you can count on seeing in a predictable way.

Dr. Burnell today is very well known for this discovery and for some small controversies around the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974 going to her graduate supervisor for the discovery of pulsars. Although, Dr. Burnell seems to hold no resentment about it. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Burnell and she is quite a fascinating woman who now advocates loudly for women and women with children in our field. She is a big, outspoken victim of imposter syndrome (which, for other victims, like me, greatly appreciate her bravery and wisdom). She is not only the discoverer of the beacon of light from pulsars but also is a beacon of hope for all women in the physics field.


Nancy was a pioneer right around the same time Katherine Johnson was pioneering for black women at NASA. In the mid-1900s, NASA was not a workplace for women. Women were discouraged from studying math and science, Nancy being no exception.
Nancy recalls her mother showing her constellations in the night sky, grabbing her attention. She decided very young that becoming an astronomer was the path for her. In 1949, Dr. Roman earned her PhD from the University of Chicago. In 1959, she began work at NASA, where she became the first chief of astronomy in the Office of Space Science. She was also the first woman to hold an executive position at the space agency. Dr. Roman was called the mother of Hubble, the optical space telescope that was launched in 1990 and is still operating today, 30 years later. She was a program scientist who was basically the person who would convince people the mission was worth doing, as she puts it. Dr. Roman had a lot to do with how the telescope was designed and built and kept up appeal and interest from investors.

​On May 20, 2020, NASA announced it will name the next-generation space telescope after Dr. Roman. The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is currently under development and is set to launch in the mid-2020s. The new name of the telescope is now The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. It will investigate open questions in astrophysics and cosmology such as the force behind the universe’s expansion and to search for distant planets beyond our solar system. NASA rejoices Dr. Roman’s efforts, describing her as ‘tirelessly advocating for new tools that would allow scientists to study the broader universe from space’. This is also in memory of Dr. Roman, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 93.


Cecilia is one of the women known as the Harvard Computers, which consisted of a number of women working as skilled astronomers, collecting and processing optical data at the Harvard Observatory in the late-1800s onwards. Cecilia was among Williamina Fleming, Annie Jump Cannon, and Henrietta Leavitt and others, who tirelessly studied light from stars. Studying stellar spectra, the Harvard computers made several major contributions to astronomy, including the famous stellar
classification system – Oh, Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me! or OBAFGKM, which types the varying stars based on their optical spectra. ​​Cecilia, in particular, made a pretty big discovery herself, which she and her PhD thesis advisor squabbled over for years. Henry Norris Russell was one of the astronomers who developed the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, a fundamental graph displaying stellar evolution still used widely today. Russell was sure Cecelia’s work must be wrong.

In 1925, Cecelia submitted her PhD thesis, which was comprised of extensive analysis of a huge dataset of stellar spectra, all showing enormous abundances of hydrogen and helium, a surprising result at the time. Today, it is understood that hydrogen and helium are the most abundant elements in the universe. In the Milky Way alone, it is estimated the baryonic mass is roughly 74% hydrogen, 24% helium, and all else being remaining heavier elements. In 1925, however, it was still thought that stars were made up of similar composition as the planets, like Earth. There was no reason to believe otherwise until, alas, abundant evidence shows us that indeed, the universe is made up of mostly the two lightest elements. Her discovery profoundly changed our outlook on the universe, stellar evolution, cosmology, and more. By 1956, Cecelia had accomplished becoming the first female professor at Harvard and the first woman to become department chair. She passed away in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1979.


So technically, Jeanette was a mathematician but I’ve included her as an astrophysicist because she is well-known for her contributions to knowledge on the Sun’s sunspot cycle. Jeanette was the first African-American mathematician to be employed at the NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, based in Huntsville, Alabama in 1964. Jeanette grew up in Alabama when segregation and other racial discriminatory laws and behaviors were normalized.
She went to an all-black school and graduated from high school in 1956. She went on to receive her Bachelor’s and Master’s from Alabama A&M University. Her 1967 report, Survey of Solar Cycle Prediction Models, provided new methods for improving predictions of the solar sunspot cycle. She went back to school some time later to earn her PhD in computer science and went to work at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She worked as a computer systems analyst responsible for analyzing and directing NASA systems. During her career, she remained passionate about inclusion and equity. She volunteered as an equal employment opportunity officer in her spare time. Jeanette retired in 2005 and in 2017, NASA honored Jeanette for her skill, perseverance, and positive attitude as part of the first Alabama Historically Black Colleges and Universities Roundtable Discussion.

​Six extraordinary women of science and their stories

We acknowledge these women fought various obstacles in the workplace from historical and systematic oppression of their gender and for some, they were discriminated against for their race as well. We applaud these women for their courage, knowledge, and wit that it took for them to accomplish their goals in spite of added difficulty.


Imposter Syndrome/Phenomenon/Experience(n) Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, despite how many accomplishments they might achieve.

It affects people of all walks of life – though it can disproportionately affect underrepresented minorities. I’ve linked a short Ted Ed video below that nicely sums up the issue and how we can battle it. We talk about this feeling increasingly in my field and as I’ve progressed in my own career, I’ve realized that I am not alone! Even some of the most influential scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, philosophers and more still suffer from imposter syndrome.

Newsflash: It has nothing to do with your competency and everything to do with your own worst critic: you!

As this video mentions, Maya Angelou and Albert Einstein suffered from imposter syndrome. Just recently, I was able to listen to Jocelyn Bell Burnell (nbd but she discovered pulsars) , who bravely and openly speaks about her own wars with imposter syndrome. Even though she discovered an astrophysical phenomenon that supported evidence for the evolution of stars, and despite the fact that she was the one to dig deeper while her graduate school supervisor was convinced it was little green menshe still felt as though she could be kicked out from graduate school at any minute for her incompetency. 

It’s like the extreme opposite of the Dunning Kruger effect which is almost cruel that this exists because then people suffering from imposter syndrome will quietly question themselves: how do they know they don’t have the Dunning Kruger effect and actually are an imposter in their field?!  (Welcome to Jordan’s thoughts). 

I’m not biased towards Ted Ed usually but these are some nice and short videos that do a good job at describing these psychological phenomena. The part of this video I’d like to highlight is their discussion on experts and why experts will usually “grade” their skills as more inadequate than they really are. While those with the least ability in the topic might think they know more about it than they really do. A great example is how people judge their own driving skills: most of us will swear we have above average driving skills but, I mean, the math just doesn’t work out!

It seems there’s a connection between 1) the number of failures or learning lessons you experience in a field and 2) how you evaluate your own skills. Those who have more experience in a particular topic (and hence have likely faced several obstacles that may resonate as “failure” or learning lessons, whatever you want to call it) typically grade themselves poorer. However, those with the least experience (and hence have faced little to no failure or learning lessons, which may resonate as a feeling of knowledge or talent on said topic) will think higher of their skills than they really should. 

So, it makes sense that the more you grow in your field the more you might doubt yourself, especially after realizing you either have imposter or Dunning Kruger syndrome or BOTH, in which case one validates the other and vice versa and you’ll need to quit your job, move, and start a new life under a different name.

I really like how Einstein put it: “As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.”  Basically, the more you know about a topic, the more aware you are that there is so much to learn about the topic. Therefore, you tend to believe you know less about this topic than there could be to know about it, and you rate yourself at a lower comprehension because of it. That’s kinda a cool thing – it exposes how easily humans can feel insignificant and aware that there is much, much more to the world than what we have been able to make of it – that’s humbling. Humans are inherently humble creatures and that’s kind of beautiful

Well ok, we tend to be either humble or incredibly self-absorbed (see e.g., Dunning Kruger effect lol). Is there an in between? 

​The videos mention a few ways we can help battle imposter syndrome and I think some of these points can also keep Dunning Krugers at bay:

  1. Open discussions about your feelings of inferiority. You’ll be surprised how many around you feel the exact same way.
  2. Open discussions about your expertise. Share what you do and become comfortable talking about it with anyone. 
  3. Ask about your performance. Don’t freak out if you get some criticism but instead use it to improve. If it concerns you, just say so. Example questions to ask in response of criticism: How can I improve my performance? Is there anything I can do to correct this mistake? Does this setback the timeframe for the project? Example responses to receiving negative feedback: This is good information to know and I will certainly work on this. I will make a point to improve on this subject. Thank you for pointing that out, I will look into this. I didn’t know that and thank you for teaching me this. 
  4. Let yourself be proud when receiving praise or credit. 
  5. Be comfortable learning something no matter how expert you feel about a topic. There is always something to learn!

The tips definitely rise in “severity” or unease (well, #3 and #4) so just start with the first two and then work your way to those two points if need be. On the other hand, some people tend to handle imposter syndrome poorly by overworking.  It’s the classic overcompensation mechanism: never feeling good enough so you work hard until you feel like you have met expectation which, depending on how bad of imposter syndrome you have, could be never, lol. It’s important to be able to reflect when you start doing this and always remember to rest! Find a hobby that brings you peace and try to do it regularly. 

Take it from me, a fellow imposter syndrome sufferer. 

You are talented. You are capable. And you belong. 


Give yourself that much needed downtime.

You can’t do well if you don’t feel well.

And you won’t perform your best if you don’t give yourself time to rest. I came up with that. I’m pretty proud of that. 
If you can manage to make time for yourself to do something you really enjoy and has nothing to do with work or research or teaching, you can help battle those weeks where you just feel burnt out.
If you find yourself feeling lethargic, feeling less enthusiastic about your work than usual, feeling fatigued, tired, exhausted, having a lack of appetite or sleep or both, lacking the energy to do the basic things like taking a shower or your regular exercise routine, or maybe you can’t get yourself to go to that bonfire because you are just out of it, then you might be burnt out. It’s important to notice these signs because when they start to occur, it can begin to affect your work. Whether you realize it or not, not paying attention to your body and mind when you need a mental break will eventually make your work sloppier and less thorough. And nobody likes half-assed work.

Your boss won’t like it and maybe even you will feel like you didn’t meet your usual goal.


So that you don’t get overworked and that’s okay.
I feel like this could be especially true in America where we all feel like we are never doing enough. We’re never making enough money, never saving enough money, never having enough things, never having enough success, never having enough TIME. We try to do so much but then tend to forget about the important things and that almost always includes our mind and body. In fact, if you check your work e-mail as you are waking up like I do, you’d probably even qualify as a workaholic. Most of us would probably take $20,000 per year in salary over more paid sick leave and vacation time, right? Here’s your sign: you’re a workaholic and you’ve been ignoring your body and mind’s needs. 

Furthermore, half or more of all employed Americans consider themselves workaholics, are currently stressed about work, check their work e-mails while waking up, spend hours staring at a screen (which could have profound impacts to your eyesight with time), and more. We have a serious problem. The same survey I am getting this information from (click here for the NY post just published in Feb of this year) says the following of the Americans who completed the poll:

  • 54% said they prioritize work before personal life
  • 51% said they worry about work on days off
  • 50% said they struggle to switch off or will actually work while on vacation
  • 48% said they check their e-mails in the middle of the night (that’s just crazy)
  • 46% said they are the first person to get to work and the last to leave
  • 46% said they feel pressured or too busy to take annual leave
  • 45% said they work through lunch
  • 45% said they feel anxious if they don’t check in or do not know what is going on at work
  • 44% said they are being told by friends and family that they work too much
  • 39% said they check e-mails first thing in the morning
If you find yourself doing one or more of these things, you have to learn how to relax. For the sake of your mind and body but also for your work. Let yourself be the best you can be in all realms of life by giving yourself that downtime. Don’t worry about work, don’t think about work, don’t think about deadlines, assignments, gossip, none of that. Do the things you really love. Whether it’s knitting, riding a motorcycle, snowboarding, running, sleeping, watching TV, just give into those guilty pleasures and let yourself do something just for fun.
No guilt, no strings, no consequences. Just you being you being with yourself doing something you want to do. 

I’m still learning how to stop and give myself a break. It’s definitely easier said than done, especially when you add other factors into the mix like mental illness, physical illness, children and spouses, personal duties at home, etc. So giving yourself a nice work-life balance is essential. Getting those basic skills down like managing your time can not only alleviate a lot of worry and stress but can also provide you windows of time for you to relax and not think (if that’s what you want) without any guilt. But, if you ever do need to check out but feel like you might be letting someone down, reach out to them and let them know your struggling. If they don’t understand, consider cutting that person out of your life if you can. If it’s your boss, certainly consider working somewhere else.

You deserve to have a boss and work environment that supports you and encourages you to take care of ALL of you, not just the part of you that generates good work and if you don’t have that, I urge you to try to find it elsewhere. It can make a world of difference.

Having the support and encouragement from your coworkers and boss can really change the way you deal with stress and pressure at work. It will make you overall happier! So if you are in a position where you can get out of that crappy work life, do it. If not, I surely hope one day you find a way to make both your personal and work life a safe space.

​Learn to say “no”. Don’t take on too much. Don’t force yourself to do things when all you feel like doing is resting after working hard for long periods of time. Not only will you thank yourself in the long run but your body and mind will thank you with a happier, healthier, and longer life because your needs have been met properly. Your personal and work life will thank you, too, because you’ll be performing better in all areas when you make sure you take a break once and a while.

Self care: Doing something you purely enjoy just because you want to do it.

Other ways to ensure you have good self care:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Regularly exercise
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Socialize with close friends and/or family
  • Keep up with medical care (daily medications, meditation, going to regular counseling sessions, going to the doctor when your sick, paying attention to that nasty cough)
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Give yourself at least one day off per week
  • Do at least one enjoyable non-work related activity a day like reading, writing a journal entry, writing a blog post, watching TV, talking on the phone to your long-distance BFF, whatever floats your boat



Identity theft is not a joke, Jim!
You may be thinking, “Surely, that can’t be right! Why would you tell me to be stupid? What do you mean by doing it inquisitively?”. Basically, what I’m trying to say is ask the stupid questions.

Sometimes you need to learn to push against that risky, scary feeling that you might embarrass yourself by asking a question that maybe everyone else already knows the answer to. Maybe everyone does already know the answer, maybe they don’t. But you could never know the answer if you don’t embrace feeling stupid occasionally and just ask the damn question.

​We’ve all been there:

Something comes up in lecture or conversation or in a group meeting – whatever it is – you have the moment: “wtf does that mean?”

Being able to learn and grow as an expert in your field sometimes requires a stupid question. You need to learn to just stew in the fragility and vulnerability. You know what I mean. Something said confuses you and you feel the stupidity (feeling!) rise in your stomach like an involuntary burp. You want so bad to understand this content but you just. can’t. raise. your. hand. I’m here to tell you (again) that you are not alone. ALL of us have felt this way from one time or another. Some experience it more frequently than others (me) and that’s okay. Because if you know where your weaknesses are and are willing to learn how you can improve on them, then you’re gucci, baby! And ultimately, your work won’t suffer. Sure, you didn’t know the answer. But you asked what it meant and now you know

In short, if you want to be successful, but you need a key piece of information, you need to learn to ask for it and not worry about the looks or judgement. I AM NOT SAYING THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION. There absolutely is such a thing but – what I am saying is –  sometimes the stupid questions are just mandated. You have holes in your education. We all do. We have to be comfortable with uncomfortably filling those holes, for the sake of our research. A research endeavor that is well thought-out and well understood, is one that will flourish with meaningful results.
……And sometimes that requires asking a stupid question.
If you go and talk to people I work with, I can tell you, they won’t say I never ask stupid questions or that I have never had a stupid moment but, they also cannot say that for themselves. I’m trying to remind you that people will judge you no matter what. They will judge you for things you can’t control and things of which you can control. They will judge you for things you never even recognized in yourself. They will judge you whether or not you asked the dumb question.
My advice: Be the stupid person. They have to kick you out for worse things than asking stupid questions. 

Literally every graduate student ever. Especially that first semester.


Hello all! My second grad tip for surviving graduate school is time management. As I’m typing this I am avoiding doing my math project and beginning my comprehensive list of pulsar wind nebulae (err…Sorry, Dan. I’ll do it next, I promise) but, that’s okay! I have my schedule worked out to include the days when I’m able to knock out a bunch of stuff and the days where I hit a lull or road block one way or another (that’s today). I don’t procrastinate so if I can’t get to an assignment at a certain time that I’ve aimed for, it’s okay. I’ll get to it later because I have time. So, speaking about time. Let’s talk about how to manage it. I’ll share my three secrets (omg!) to managing time in a manner that allows you to be efficient and productive and, if implemented right, you have plenty of time left for you and your body (eat a decent meal, maybe?).

My three tips to getting the most out of your normal work/school day:
1. Keep an agenda or day planner. I use this one.


The agenda I use.

My Oct 1 day schedule (as you can see, I have not yet done two tasks. I’ll do one after this post and the other tomorrow!).
  • Make a list of all the things you need to do for that week and then give each day a portion of those tasks to complete. Be sure to consider deadlines!
  • It’s okay if you can’t complete all of the tasks you designated for a specific day. Simply highlight out the tasks you were able to complete and move the leftover tasks to either the next day or another day in the week (if this assignment’s due date allows of course).
  • Balance the hard tasks vs. the smaller, less time-consuming tasks. Don’t schedule a bunch of hard, long, math problems to do all on Wednesday. Layer it throughout the week so you don’t spend too much time hating yourself all at once.

​To the left is an example: My weekday schedule. ​You can see project I is on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This is both because I couldn’t get to the project today and also because it’s a project so it will require more time than one weekly time slot.

PROS: Get your shit together. ​

CONS: Never remember to do another thing in your life without the agenda telling you.
2. Stay organized. If you don’t have to spend 15 minutes every morning looking for your keys, you have that time to get to work and maybe get a better parking spot! (Or drive for 30 minutes on campus desperately looking for an available space……WHY IS EVERY COLLEGE LIKE THIS?!). Here are some things I do to keep myself organized:

  • You know those deep clean binges you go on occasionally where for a small window of time everything in your life is just about clean and in a proper place? (I wonder if this really does apply to most of us? I think I’m smelling another survey at the bottom of this post). Anyways, start there. Then, practice cleaning up after yourself. I’m seriously not trying to be rude! But we all subconsciously misplace things and generally clutter things up because we forget to put them back. I still have to practice the habit of cleaning up after myself. If you stay consistent, it’ll eventually become a habit and you won’t have a cluttered house to anxiously and aggressively clean when you’re feeling panicky or spend those 15 minutes looking for your wallet or your phone.

Sorry, Kirsten.
OOOR, you can be like me and artfully place a bagel on a paper towel on top of your cell phone while visiting friends in Belgium and then freak tf out for 20 minutes about how I probably left my phone in a Belgian’s car because I can’t find my phone and then later go to eat my bagel and then… well, then I realized I needed to apologize for my attitude. 
PROS: You will lose stuff less and waste less time cleaning, organizing, and finding misplaced items.
CONS: Requires some self discipline and habit forming.*

*Is this really a con tho?

3. SLEEP. My dear friends, the kindest gift I can give to you is to convince you to get enough sleep. A clear, working, productive mind is one that is well fed and well rested. Sleeping enough and generating a good sleep routine can help you start the day feeling ready to take on the tasks you designated specifically for that day. A clear, focused mind is the best mindset to be in when you need to have your A game. 
PROS: You get more sleep! 
Cons: DNE (does not exist)

Don’t be this guy.
Through keeping good time management by following these tips, you could virtually say goodbye to:

  • All-nighters (I’ve literally never pulled one. I’m in bed by 9pm. If it’s a particularly stressful day maybe 11pm. Lol)
  • Missing deadlines (at least minimize the occurrences, that is.)
  • Missing meetings or appointments
  • Sloppy assignments turned in with a lack of understanding (because you were rushing!)
  • Procrastination