Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lucianne Walkowicz: Reaching for the Stars

In my search for the perfect blog post topic, I scavenged dozens of Chicago business websites for creative and innovative individuals. I wanted the work of the chosen person to be accessible to me. I came across astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz from the Adler Planetarium.  Upon a preliminary investigation of Walkowicz, I found three TED talks, each relaying the importance of astronomy and a relation to other areas, the hook I needed to start my research.

Ted Talks
2011: Finding Planets Around Other Stars

As an astrophysicist, Walkowicz has accomplished a significant amount in her field. She has worked on space missions including the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Kepler Mission (as discussed in her TED Talk). She is also collaborating to develop the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. While these examples demonstrate Walkowicz’s intelligence and admiration within her field, her projects are not the reason I chose her. Walkowicz is a creative individual who is fueled by intrinsic motivations, similarly to my creative, Picasso. According to Gardner, intrinsic motivation means: “creative solutions to problems occur more often when individuals engage in an activity for its sheer pleasure than when they do so for possible external awards,” (Gardner, 25). Like Picasso, Walkowicz has been overwhelmingly successful in her endeavors, so external reward has played a role in her work. However, the two were driven by the passion of their field to produce results, rather than the possibility of recognition.

As an individual with Undergraduate, Masters, and Doctorate Degrees in Physics, one may assume that Walkowicz only interacts with those as educated as herself. The truth is quite the contrary. Her creative “idea” is to make science accessible. According to Creative Mornings: “[Lucianne] works to empower people from all walks of life through scientific discovery, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, mentoring students and developing citizen science projects that put the tools of discovery in anyone’s hands.” As an example, in 2016, Walkowicz led the “Adler Galaxy Ride,” a bike ride from Chicago to St. Louis, representative of distances in space. The group put on free fun science events in cities and towns along the route. Walkowicz also keeps a blog that frequently connects astronomy to other fields, one of her most recent post called: “Martin Luther King Jr. & Astronomy for #MLKDay.” 

The extent that astronomy can connect to other fields is only limited by her own creativity. 

Walkowicz even discusses climate change in her talks about other habitable planets in the universe and how the two can work in conjunction. The purpose of all of her advocacy is to demonstrate how precious our planet is and how future minds will be forced to find ways to save it. When interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, Walkowicz discussed the importance of her work: “(At Adler,) I think that we can play a role in making science more accessible for everyone. That can actually profoundly influence who thinks of themselves as future scientists or who thinks of themselves as being able to access science.” 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Emma, for sharing information about this very intriguing individual. I see Lucianne Walkowicz as doing one of the most important things a creative can do, share her skills with others. The intrinsic motivation of hers that you identify seems to manifest itself in products that are communally beneficial. Her projects that aim to make science more accessible to the public are very important, especially for future women in the STEM fields. As a public figure in science, Walkowicz stands as a model and inspiration to young women with scientific potential.

    Not only can Lucianne Walkowicz be seen as creative through her unique scientific discoveries, she is creative for the ways in which she is able to successfully connect her research with the general public.

    Thanks for sharing!


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