Stars glittering in the night sky have lengthy careers. Even very large stars have a lifespan of a few million years, while small stars can exist for trillions of years.
For scientist Kimberly Kowal Arcand, her love of stars began early and has fueled an extraordinary career.
“I’ve loved the stars since I was a little kid. And though I wanted to be an astronaut, I was the biggest wimp at amusement park rides. I will forever be tethered to the earth,” Arcand said.
Arcand is the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is headquartered at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is also the leading expert in studying the perception and comprehension of high-energy data visualization across the novice-expert spectrum.
“I grew up in Scituate, Rhode Island and there are good dark skies there, and you can see so many more stars. That helped connect me to the grander universe,” Arcand said.
As a science data “storyteller” she combines her background in molecular biology and computer science with her current work in the fields of astronomy and physics.
Kim Arcand is the Keynote Speaker at the Southern New England American Heart Association’s STEM Goes Red Conference on April 6th.
“My day to day job is weaving information from the universe to tell stories, and my stories take the format of unique platforms, like 3D models and virtual reality,” she said. “I’m a storyteller that’s a bit technical and scientific.”
Arcand hopes to inspire the 75+ local middle school girls who will be attending the STEM Goes Red Conference. STEM is the American Heart Association’s new initiative to inspire and empower girls to learn and take action in their personal heart and brain health by exploring STEM outside of the classroom. That includes engaging in dialogue with Rhode Island leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.
“I am very passionate about working with girls and other under-represented groups in STEM,” said Arcand. “After I had my own kids, including my daughter, I saw the representation in these fields hadn’t improved enough in the past 20 years. I wanted to get out into the community more.”
It was in 2015 when Arcand was at her daughter’s school teaching her class about stellar evolution and doing origami when one of her daughter’s friends said she didn’t know that Moms could be scientists.
“It was not that long ago. Most of my daughter’s friends know what I do (or so I thought), but it was a reality check,” said Arcand.
The STEM Goes Red Event is taking place on Saturday, April 6th from 9 am – 12 pm at the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in Providence. For more information about STEM Goes Red, please contact Michelle Clark, Go Red for Women Director at Michelle.Clark@heart.org or call her at 401-228-2322.
“I feel like if I could inspire just one girl a year to do something interesting in science and technology, I would be thrilled,” said Arcand.
Kimberly Kowal Arcand was selected as a “Changemaker” for the White House State of Women Summit in 2016 and has been the recipient of group and individual awards from NASA and the Smithsonian, including the Smithsonian Achievement Award in 2016.
She is principle researcher in the Aesthetics and Astronomy image response research project with international participation.
Arcand presented her TEDx talk “How to hold a dead star in your hand” in April 2016 based on her work 3D printing the first data-driven model of an exploded star. She has also co-written four popular science books.