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Education and Public Outreach Scientist

All that glitters has a high refractive index.

Posts by Carolyn Brinkworth

Carolyn Brinkworth

I work as the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Scientist for the Spitzer Space Telescope and the other missions housed at IPAC. This basically means that I am responsible for all the education programs that come through our office, such as school visits and public events. It's also my job to help out as the education and (often) science advisor for many of our other projects, such as our videos, press releases, websites, and social media.  I get to spend my days doing a whole host of different jobs, such as tracking our press and media releases, helping to write scripts for new videos, writing content for our educational websites and social media posts, organising IPAC's involvement in big public events, and going into schools to talk to students about astronomy. It's a fabulous job, and I genuinely love it and am excited to come to work every day. 

So how did I get here? Well, I grew up in England, in Coventry, where I lived for the first 16 years of my life. At 16, my Dad got a job in the Netherlands, so we all moved out there and my brother and I went to a British School. I lived there til I was 18, and did my A-levels there in Maths, Physics, History and English. I'd always been interested in astronomy and space travel, and had grown up watching Star Trek TNG, Buck Rogers, anything with a sci-fi theme. I guess I was just fascinated by the possibilities of such a big universe, and what might be out there. When I realised I could study this at university, I couldn't believe my luck, so went off to the University of Leicester for my MPhys in Physics with Astrophysics. 

Going on to do a PhD in Astrophysics wasn't the easiest choice. I'd dreamed of it ever since watching Top Gun as a kid - Charlie (Tom Cruise's love interest) had a PhD in Astrophysics in the movie and I thought that was by far the coolest thing ever. When it came to the time to apply, though, I realised I loved teaching, and I genuinely thought about going to get my teaching qualification instead. Ultimately though, I decided I wasn't done with learning, and my supervisor was offering me a *really* cool PhD project, working with a new ultra-high-speed camera to look at the evolution of binary star systems. I spent 3.5 years at the University of Southampton in the UK, and came out with my PhD in 2005.

During that time, I'd spent  6 months at Spitzer as a visiting graduate student, and my boss offered me a postdoc position back at Spitzer once I had my doctorate. I moved in May 2005, worked as a postdoc for 2 years, and was then hired onto the Spitzer staff. Ever since I first arrived at uni at the age of 18, I'd been really interested in education and outreach work, and had been volunteering my time to go into schools and organise public events. Spitzer ultimately offered me a position as the EPO scientist here, and here we are. 

Outside of work, I have a bunch of other things I do. I play drums and am playing on and off with my new band. I also volunteer for the Trevor Project - a non-profit organisation offering crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, where I go into schools to run workshops on LGBTQ issues and suicide prevention. I am also currently working towards my Masters in Education at the Claremont Graduate University.