Melanie explains all about Comets on the Canada Science & Technology Museum's YouTube Channel
An Astrophysicist You’ll Want to Talk With
by Amelia Hamfelt
The first thing Melanie tells me is a joke.
“When you’re sitting on a plane, if you want the person next to you to talk with you, you tell them you’re an astronomer; if you want them to leave you alone, you tell them you’re an astrophysicist.”
Melanie doesn’t identify as either, but as someone with a professional passion for the cosmos that originated in childhood. Melanie fondly recalls when her father would wake her up in the middle of the night to witness a lunar eclipse. Those nights gazing up at the sky - realizing the immense and mysterious nature of the universe – ingrained in her an ardent curiosity for the unknown – a curiosity she brought with her to Queen’s.
Melanie recently graduated with both an undergraduate and graduate degree in astrophysics. Her chosen field of study joined her childhood fascination with her aptitude for science. Her experience enriched her passion to the extent that she envisioned her future as an educator in the field. Through her work as a teaching assistant and a volunteer at the Queen’s Observatory she discovered how fulfilling sharing knowledge can be.
“There is nothing like transmitting knowledge,” says Melanie. “The most rewarding moment is when you explain something in just the right way and witness that first instant of understanding. The result is a connection with that person that continues past the present moment.”
Melanie now works as the Education Coordinator at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. She spends her days devising educational activities and programs for children, coordinating the museum instructors and interacting with museum visitors who are eager to extend their experience beyond the exhibits.
“What I love about my job is that I get to be creative every single day,” says Melanie, “I have the opportunity to experiment with science, engage with the public and teach in a way that I know is meaningful.”
While she is quick to recognize how lucky she is to have found a career that combines everything she loves, Melanie firmly attests that such a feat is achievable by anyone.
“When graduation approaches you have to think outside the box,” says Melanie. “Think about what you really want to pursue; talk to the right people; and just be open to every opportunity, even those you never envisioned.”
Despite her sage advice about the future, Melanie also recognizes the influence past experiences have on the opportunities that arise. She acknowledges the integral role her education at Queen’s played in securing her dream job. From the professors who sought to enrich her experience beyond research to the travelling she undertook to visit observatories around the world to the regular Friday colloquiums, Melanie affirms every moment contributed to where she is today.
If Melanie’s story tells us anything it is that letting your passion guide you can lead to the fulfillment of your dreams - even if you’re dream is to be an astrophysicist.