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      Donald Garnett Biography You-Hua Chu Biography Vanessa Galarza Biography  

Vanessa Galarza

Vanessa Galarza

I grew up under the dark skies up in the mountains of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, never once imagining where my interests in chemistry, physics and astronomy would take me. My decision to pursue astronomy did not come until college when I witnessed an almost complete solar eclipse. That event inspired me to look for opportunities to do scientific research in astronomy. From 1992 to 1994, I participated in three summer internships through the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program. My work at the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center at Arecibo Observatory, at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Very Large Array in Socorro, New Mexico, and at Cornell University introduced me to the diverse research programs in the field of astronomy and helped me refine my own research interests.

After completing my bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota in 1995, I worked with the HST data on the peculiar HII region, N44C. This project satisfied my interests in chemistry and astronomy as I analyzed optical spectra and calculated chemical abundances with Dr. Don Garnett. My graduate work at New Mexico State University also focused on the chemical abundances of HII regions and Supernova Remnants. To fulfill my graduate student responsibilities, I worked with children and adults in a variety of educational programs, such as Project ASTRO. These rewarding experiences sparked my passion for informal science education.

You-Hua Chu

Shortly after finishing my Master's degree in Astronomy, I moved to Chicago to develop a career exploration program for teens at the Museum of Science and Industry. During this 3-year pilot program, students from public high schools throughout the city have explored a variety of careers in science, math and technology, including Space Science. I also run the only NASA Educator Resource Center in Illinois where I assist teachers throughout the state with science curriculum development and training. In addition to these programs, I provide science content support in developing exhibits and education programs at the Museum. During my free time, I teach high school students in a primarily Puerto Rican community on the northwest side of Chicago about careers in Astronomy and at NASA. Although the students and teachers I reach may not become scientists themselves, exposing them to the wonders of science will help them to understand its importance in our world. This understanding is critical to maintaining public support and funding for scientific research.