The following essay was written by Sarah Stamer, a Lowell volunteer and astrophysics double-major at the University of Arizona.
My journey in science started in elementary school when I thought I wanted to be a doctor. That changed when I went to summer camp at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and during lunch watched the Cosmos television series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I immediately bought the original Cosmos book by Carl Sagan and immersed myself in the universe of astronomy. My interest in astronomy continued as a camper at Lowell Observatory, as the winner of a Lowell Observatory-sponsored essay contest to meet Mark Kelly (a former NASA astronaut and current U.S. Senator), and during the astronomy unit in my 7th grade honors science class. Once in high school, I enrolled in a science and engineering program. However, one especially significant experience showed me that I wanted to be an astronomer. From October 2018 to March 2020, I was a Nighttime Public Programming volunteer at Lowell Observatory. There, I showcased my astronomy knowledge interacting with thousands of guests from across the world as a portable telescope operator and as a greeter for guests standing in telescope lines. Being a Lowell volunteer was a rewarding science communication experience, even when standing outside for hours on freezing winter nights. During my time at Lowell, I developed my passion for science education and communication and a love for dwarf planets, especially Pluto.
Looking back on my journey from medically-inclined elementary school student to astrophysics double-major at one of the foremost universities for research and astronomy in the country, I know a series of fortunate events led me to the place where I am today. I was fortunate to have Lowell Observatory in my hometown, a place I fondly call one of my favorite places in the world. I was fortunate to have parents who, as music teachers, did not understand most of the science or math I told them about or took in school but were willing to help nurture my curiosity and my passion for the stars. I was fortunate to have friends and adults come into my life who were excited about science and shared that excitement with me. I was fortunate to grow up in a STEM City and an International Dark Sky City that values everything STEM. I was fortunate to go to three public schools that knew the importance of investing in STEM education.I know that I am luckier than most in my journey in STEM. That is why my life goal is to make STEM education accessible and equitable. I know the importance of all the STEM experiences I have had over the years, and I want to give others similar opportunities to get them interested in STEM just as I am. Currently, I am not sure how to achieve that goal, but I am planning to get started in science communication and public outreach to bring my love of science to as many people as possible.