SciComm, Space, Spectacular Scientists

Spectacular Scientists: Joalda Morancy

Welcome back to my spectacular scientists series! It’s been a while, but we are kicking it off again with Joalda- also known as @solarrsystem on Twitter- she creates the most amazing threads about all kinds of space-y things. Some are mainly educational, covering fascinating topics like wormholes, space agriculture, and asteroid mining, but also less serious/ highly entertaining ones like her Celebrity x Planets threads! 

Jade (N) You just got an internship at NASA- congratulations! Can you tell me more about it?

Joalda (J): Yes! I am an intern at NASA JPL working on this mission called ECOSTRESS, which aims to look at evapotranspiration in plants. What I do is look at climate disasters around the world, whether that be fires, floods, etc. and translate them into interesting maps using the ECOSTRESS data. Another project that I’ll be starting is looking at environmental tipping points using ECOSTRESS data and seeing if the data is useful in early warning methods.

N: That’s so cool! How did you get the internship?

J: My advisor on Twitter was looking to give an opportunity to students who were Black in STEM and were interested in earth science. I then reached out to him, and the whole process got started! I’ve met a couple of people who have gone through similar processes of reaching out to research scientists at JPL and starting work with them through that.

N: When you aren’t at NASA, what do you study?

J: I study Geophysics and Astrophysics at UChicago! I actually wanna go into planetary science and study the geomorphology of Mars, which is obviously quite different from my internship haha. 

N: Wow! That’s pretty much what I want to study in the future too! 

N: Have you always been interested in science?

J: I think science is something that has always interested me. I’ve always really been interested in STEM fields and learning about how the world works.

N: What led you to space science?

J: So one day during the summer before my sophomore year of high school, I was watching random YouTube videos. At some point, a video of Chris Hadfield making a sandwich on the International Space Station popped up randomly in my recommended section, and I decided to check it out since it seemed interesting. That is the video that actually kick started my interest in space!

N: Who were your inspirations growing up, and who are they now?

J: So I didn’t really have any specific inspirations when growing up, and I think that is just due to my background. As a kid, I didn’t really see that many Black scientists and engineers advertised to me, so I never really saw someone who I could look up to, and I mainly found out about specific individuals much later in my life. But now, I think I would say some of my role models include Mae Jemison, Mary Jackson, Sarafina Nance, and Naia Butler-Craig!

N: I love your twitter threads! What brought you to the world of science communication?

J: I’m so happy to hear! So a lot of my passions lie in giving people the opportunities I didn’t have as a kid growing up, and that included someone who could tell me about all the cool science topics in the world! So my original passion for science communication lied in speaking to kids, especially young Black kids, and telling them about all these amazing topics so they can get inspired at a younger age. I do science communication with children in the south side of Chicago, and it has been a super rewarding experience so far.

I think this is what led to me to do more science communication in general, specifically Twitter. There are so many cool topics within science that the public should actively be learning about, and I’m hoping to inform more people through the threads I do. I think I’m pretty good at understanding complex topics and putting them into a format that people can understand while being informed at the same time. Over time I think I have really improved at accomplishing this, and it has led me to think about doing more bigger things, like writing a science fiction book!

N: I’d second that- your threads are always so succinct and fun to read! I can’t wait to read your sci-fi book, good luck with it!

N: You’ve taken part in lots of cool research- how did you get to take part in these and which has been your favourite?

J: So I really only got these opportunities because I’ve bothered many professors enough that they’d let me do research with them haha. I got involved with the astrophysics research I do at my school through a new fellowship I applied to, and it has definitely been my favorite. I learned all my coding skills here and basically how to do research, so it holds a special place in my heart.

N: What would be your dream job/ research project?

J: I’m hoping to become an astronaut one day and walk on another celestial body (hopefully Mars!), so that is the main dream job.

Joalda edited into a spacesuit floating above mars

N: What’s your favourite thing to do outside of science?

J: Definitely play video games and listen to music.

N: If you were in charge of the next nasa mission, what would it be and where would it go?

J: This is a good question, I would probably send it to one of the ocean moons that exist deeper in our solar system around the gas giants and have it study some sort of geomorphology.

N: If you couldn’t study planets/space, what would you focus on?

J: I always love to think about what I would do if I didn’t study space. I think I’d either become an oceanographer or a video game developer.

N: Do you have a favourite female scientist from your field? Past or Present!

J: Yes! I mentioned her as one of my role models, but I am a big fan of Sarafina Nance, an astrophysicist and great science communicator! Her passion for her research is really inspiring, and the research she does on supernovae is just super cool in general.

N:  What are your top tips for aspiring scientists?

J: Always always always ask questions and never let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your goals. Two of the key things that have gotten me through a lot of my life so far!

N: That’s great advice!

N: Thank you so much Joalda and good luck with your future endeavours (one day we’ll see you not just writing about Mars, but a true Martian astronaut)! Make sure you all go follow her on Twitter, you won’t regret it! Also look out for her new livestream series: “SpaceViews” where she talks to space professionals!

*This was my 50th blog post! Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me on here, I really appreciate every view, like and comment. What’s been your favourite post so far? Who should I interview next? I have some exciting things coming up, so make sure you follow me on Instagram @nevertrustanatomblog and subscribe to my youtube channel.*

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