A Conversation with Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel

With the “Mommy Wars” once again erupting around Sarah Palin’s nomination for V.P., a piece of valuable insight arises in the scientific realm. Planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel has managed to do world-class science requiring frequent travel while sharing the parenting of three children, ages 7, 9, and 11, with her equally busy husband. For insight into Heidi’s work and how she balances her life, read “A Conversation with Heidi B. Hammel” in the Sept. 2, 2008, issue of the New York Times.

Then take the next step and read my biography of Heidi Beyond Jupiter coverfor middle-graders in the Women’s Adventures in Science series from the Joseph Henry Press.

Of course both the article and biography are more about Heidi as a scientist than as a parent, but part of Heidi’s ability to do terrific science is a direct result of her ability to find balance in her life.

Having gotten to know Heidi for the biography, I could almost hear her laughing while delivering her advice on meeting deadlines to NYT reporter Claudia Dreifus: “You have to always be ahead of the game. If your proposal is due at NASA on Friday, it has to be finished on Wednesday because, on Thursday, it could be fevers and head lice.”

8 thoughts on “A Conversation with Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel

  1. I’m surprised that no one has taken me to task for saying something positive about Sarah Palin.

    Actually, I was just raising the issue of the “Mommy Wars,” which is producing both criticism and praise for Palin from across the political spectrum.

    My point is that we lose as a nation, both politically and in science, if we consider parenthood (especially motherhood) incompatible with productive, successful work.

    Having said that, I disagree with Palin’s clear disregard and disrespect for science in her positions on scientific issues. Those match the destructive policies of the Bush administration, as noted in the book review attached to this link.

    She favors teaching creationism along with evolution, and she discounts the growing evidence that human activity is responsible for climate change and thus does not favor capping CO2 emissions. The links in this paragraph take you to the pages of my Science Shelf book review archive relating to those two topics in particular.

    Fred Bortz — Science and technology books for young readers (www.fredbortz.com) and Science book reviews (www.scienceshelf.com)

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