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Diaries of the Cosmos - AAPI Astronomy History Internship

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), in partnership with NASA’s Universe of Learning (UoL), is developing Diaries of the Cosmos, an audio series to highlight stories of astrophysical discovery and the people behind the science, with a specific focus on scientists from underrepresented minorities. The Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool grant has provided funding for two interns to work on showcasing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) scientists. We seek two motivated interns to join this project and help us tell the stories of AAPI astrophysicists and their discoveries.

Each episode of this series contains three major sections:

  • Narrative section: introduction to the topic, including background information, story of the discovery, and a highlight on one or two of the main scientists involved
  • Expert discussion: Q&A session with one or more experts either involved in the discovery process or currently working on related topics with NASA
  • Audience engagement: a segment inviting the audience to conduct their own related exploration of the topics

The aim of this series is to humanize the scientific process and build public trust in science, both by displaying the convoluted and meandering research paths that lead to great discoveries, and by showcasing the lives of the people making these breakthroughs. As almost all of astrophysics outreach relies heavily on visuals, this audio-only series (with transcripts provided) provides much-needed accessibility to a wide variety of audiences, including visually-impaired learners and those who prefer to – or only have time to – participate in informal learning on the go. When choosing discoveries and scientists to highlight, and experts to interview, the project actively aims to showcase the stories and voices of scientists from a variety of backgrounds in an effort to encourage a diverse group of listeners to “see themselves” reflected in the world of science.

This project explores the questions: Who are the unsung heroes of American astrophysics, and how can we better highlight their stories? What are the intricacies and subtleties of the scientific process, and how can we communicate them in a way to foster public understanding and trust in science? How can we combine science, culture, and human stories to showcase a comprehensive history of discovery in a way that is accessible and relatable to diverse audiences, in true Smithsonian fashion?

We are looking for two part-time (20hrs/wk) interns for a 12-month period each. The interns will work remotely, and will research and develop outlines for episodes of this audio series, focused on the lives and work of AAPI astrophysicists. They will be encouraged to look into scientists who are also members of other underrepresented groups. Responsibilities include:

  • researching AAPI folk in astrophysics and learning about their work, especially major breakthroughs that changed the field
  • choosing which of these people and stories of discovery to highlight
  • researching the process of these discoveries
  • translating these processes into outlines of stories accessible to a public audience
  • compiling primary sources for use in the episodes (quotes by the discoverer, or about the discovery by their contemporaries, other audio snippets that can enhance the episode, etc.)
  • researching possible AAPI astrophysicists to be interviewed for the “Expert Discussion” segments
  • conducting background research into possible interviewees and developing questions to ask
  • collaborating with other members of NASA’s Universe of Learning to develop the story outline; asking for and incorporating feedback as appropriate
  • attending an astronomy/science communication conference to present their work
  • OPTIONAL:  may join in other parts of the episode-development process (creative writing, audio editing, conducting interviews, etc.), depending on relevance to intern's interests and future career goals.

Desired qualifications

  •  Undergraduate studies completed or planned to be completed this year
  •  Interest in science communication/education/historical storytelling
  •  Interest in scientific storytelling
  •  Some science background preferred
  •  Self-motivated and able to work independently and as part of a team

Internship details

  •  Part-time (20hrs/wk)
  •  Duration: 12 months, starting early 2024 (can be flexible)
  •  Location: remote/virtual. Hybrid is possible if intern happens to be located near SAO
  • (Cambridge, MA).
  •  Stipend: $350/wk ($18,200 total)

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis starting on Jan 16. 

How to Apply

To apply go to:

Required Materials:

  • resume or cv
  • nonfictional/research writing sample
  • at least one reference (up to two)
  • transcript(s)
  • Responses to these short-answer questions:
    • Personal statement: Why are you interested in this internship? Tell us about your background, and your goals. How do you hope this internship will fit into your future aspirations?
    • What are you most interested in learning from this internship?
    • Tell us about something scientific that you think is really cool but explain it as if you're talking to a middle school student.
    • Whose voices/stories do you most care about amplifying? Give some specific examples.
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