About this blog
"Get blogging for practice and see what you want to write about" is good advice for someone who wants to be a science communicator. I started this blog in 2008 in order to practice my science writing - but I found I also love writing about people. And many other things that interest me: citizen science, when interested laypeople get together to help scientists with huge projects and turn out to have brilliant ideas and sharp eyes of their own; education, of the young and the less young; people themselves. So you'll find a mixture of astronomy, citizen science, Skeptics in the Pub, and a bit of self-indulgent ranting.
I especially enjoy writing posts to answer people's science questions, so please let me know if you have any!
About the Penguin Galaxy
It's not officially called that. It's officially called the ARP 142 system, and the galaxies (there are two) are called NGC 2936 and NGC 2937. It was the first interesting-looking object that came up for me in the early days of Galaxy Zoo. It is not a new discovery, least of all in any way "my" galaxy - I just fell in love with it and claimed it for my Galaxy Zoo Forum and later Twitter avatars. You can read more about it here.
A friend showed it to her husband, and he nicknamed it "The Penguin Galaxy" - there was general agreement that it looked like a bird's head, admiring an egg! There should be a Galaxy Zoo Mergers paper out soon which will tell us more.
About me (briefly)
I moderate the discussion forum of Galaxy Zoo, a huge project which invites the general public (yes, including you!) to classify galaxies, and have co-founded Cardiff and Hackney Skeptics in the Pub, informal talks about issues which call for some critical thinking. Currently I'm a part-time MSc Astrophysics student in London. I love writing about science and get occasional articles published.
I love science. I especially love citizen science - when laypeople work with experts on big projects - and I want to encourage more people to give this a try. I believe the more people get involved in science, and take ownership of it, the better we'll do as a species in making good decisions - and the more fun we'll have, and the better we'll work together, because there's nothing more sociable or enjoyable than science.
Favourite topics: astrochemistry, galaxies, history of science, chemistry, women in science, human rights and justice in general, evidence-based thinking, education and public participation in science.
About me (less briefly, if you're really that interested)
Born in 1982, had a few astronomy books as a kid, loved them, given impression at school that such things were childhood toys from the past to be put away now. Mortifyingly, I never realised at school that scientific discoveries were still being made, and then did Environmental Science at university without ever hearing about the scientific method: exactly how science is done. This is something I want to change in our education system and hopefully communicate to adults as well: science is part of life, thriving, constantly changing and climbing and open to giving to and receiving from every one of us.
Disastrous gap year before university: I had the pleasure of discovering what corporate dishonesty and bullying really were in a workplace allegedly offering me "environmental experience". I developed a long-term illness and, well, learnt a great deal.
University: Environmental Science - idealistic 17-year-old wanted to save the world; arrived as a 19-year-old ordered to be bitter and cynical and whose health problems interfered with her study. I spent the year 2003-2004 in Granada, Spain, as part of my course. That was an incredible year - there is no substitute for living in another society and seeing how they do everything. I recommend it!
Various jobs since: writing biodiversity leaflets, shop stuff, waitressing (Don't employ me as a waitress. I'm clumsy), clerical work in a hospital, data entry, project officer. More importantly, in 2006 I taught English as a foreign language and found out how much I love working with young people and teaching. In 2007 I spent six months doing a catch-up chemistry course at Sussex University, which was wonderful, and in 2007-8 trained as a science teacher but was thrown off the course - partly because I got behind due to adverse living conditions, but mostly because I am a rotten liar and failed in giving the impression I cared more about impressing examiners than knowledge. I must stress that the children were not in any way the problem. The adults were.
In 2010-11 I was office supervisor for a small charity for disabled people - providing information and hiring equipment. This was a huge eye-opener as I became truly aware of the problems, poverty and blame faced by people who are disabled, ill, or otherwise troubled or disadvantaged.
Most importantly of all: in 2006 I started looking up my old love, astronomy, again - and in 2007 I discovered Galaxy Zoo. That changed everything. I want to be a science communicator, but I want to be more: I want to bring people into science as well as feed it to them, to make the process two-way. I also discovered Skeptics in the Pub, my favourite aspect of which is the scientific method and evidence-based thinking. As I write this in 2012, I am a student at Queen Mary University doing part-time MSc Astrophysics. If it goes well I hope to do a PhD in galaxies or astrochemistry.
Disclaimer: If I have accidentally given you the impression that I'm some kind of angelic dedicated suffering person here, please bear in mind that I am in fact a stroppy cow who gets annoyed at the smallest of things, is lazy, is absolutely way too honest for her own good, is stubborn, is an infuriating idealist, eats too many biscuits, drinks too much tea and coffee, tweets too much, writes too little, plays too many 90's computer games, fails to spot things under her nose, and is much better at having great ideas than putting them into practice. Just so that is clear.