One Astronomer’s Noise Relaunch!

What does one say when they relaunch a blog? Hello, world… again!

Writing, like any other skill, benefits from consistent practice. That’s not something I’ve been particularly good at. I think I do just enough to get by… but I realized that I miss it. Some people think better out loud, either to themselves or to others. Some are quite good at quiet contemplation. Me? I do better when I write.

The author wearing a shirt that says "Introverted but willing to discuss astronomy" showing a new tattoo in Greek that roughly translates, "Investigation, the Forerunner of Knowledge"This is my ninth (?!) year as a professor of physics. I became a tenured associate professor in August of 2022.  Though this is a position that I was aiming for, I think I honestly didn’t expect this to ACTUALLY be my path. Academia is a weird kind of struggle, and I’m not great at several parts of it. Somehow, though, I ended up in a position that let’s me teach joyfully and work with amazing colleagues.

The post-tenure slump is a real thing. Mine took a strange form… where I set aside my own work and scholarship priorities and dove headfirst into committee work. A LOT of committee work. I thought, for sure, now that I was in a position of more power that I could Make Happen a lot of the changes that I had previously been clamoring for. Reader… it’s not that simple. SHOCKING, I know. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) Through the process, I am finally learning to push for a better world without burning myself completely out in the process. Still, it was kind of nice to get the reaction of, “Wow… I thought you were opinionated BEFORE tenure.” Friends, you knew what you were getting.

So, here, after the close of the fall 2023 semester, I realized that it’s time to extract myself from some of that and focus on my work outside all those committees and sub-committees and working groups. You know, at least sometimes. My passion has been teaching and sharing the Universe and how we understand it with whomever will join in. I’ve been able to focus a lot on that in my own classrooms. But I’m not going to stop there.

A few months ago, I was invited by the SEE Science Center to do a Science in the Pub. Except for Dragon Con, which is basically like an alternative universe, or on my campus, I’ve had very little outreach experience since my days as a grad student and postdoc. And it felt GOOD. A little while ago, Phil Plait tagged me in a Bluesky thread about amateur astronomy since someone asked specifically about radio telescopes. BOY was I excited to chime in! I think it’s time to make room for these joyful things again.

I’ve also looked back at my own rather rocky road through scholarship. I’ve never been a star researcher, nor do I ever expect to be. I do create cool research experiences for my students, but there’s been no real focus on doing my own work lately. It’ll never be easy for me to overcome the massive impostor syndrome… but it’s worth a shot.

The world is very different from where it was eight and a half years ago, when I stopped writing and social media-ing in a professional capacity. In fact, during my very first semester as a professor in New Hampshire, it was 2015 and my campus was constantly crawling with Republican presidential candidates… but I don’t want to focus on that in my very first post.

The way we consume media has changed. I’m starting to sound like an Old Person, but I’ll never “pivot to video.” That’s just not a skillset I’ve learned and there are SO many people who are SO good at it. And so I’ll come back to blogging and continue tweeting skeeting. (Yes. It’s called a skeet on Bluesky and you will NOT change my mind.) You’ll get the occasional lecture video on YouTube, but it’s nothing Tik Tok worthy.

I took my blog down a while ago in favor of the static site that I have been using for some time. I have saved some of my favorites, and I’ll be looking to repost these “from the archives” posts, hopefully with updated links. Yes, even the slightly cringey ones. Others may get a real update or “Part 2” as necessary. Primarily, however, I’m hoping to use this as a way to organize and share thoughts about astronomy, education, and the world in general. After all, I need the practice.