Hello! Thanks for checking out Science with My Cat’s blog, Tales with Tails. My name is Dani and along with my cat, Gideon, I run SWMC. What started as a funny little idea in the back of my mind when Gid first jumped on my telescope has bloomed into something I really enjoy doing and I'm so grateful for your support.
On the Instagram page, @sciencewithmycat, Gideon is definitely the star, other than the actual stars, of course, but I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you my story and how I got here.
Ever since I can remember, I was in love with space. As a kid, I would often wait until my parents had fallen asleep to sneak out the back door so I could spend just a few more moments under the star-filled night sky. Bundled up in a blanket, I would list off the stars that I had learned during the day, stumbling over the Greek and Arabic words. Tracing the constellations that painted the night sky with my little fingers always made me feel like a tiny dot in the vastness the universe, but not in a bad way; this small feeling made me protected like nothing could find and harm me in the little speck of existence that was my backyard.
When I was 10, I was lucky enough to go to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL, and my love grew from stars to space exploration. Learning the history of the space program was mind blowing. Standing underneath the rockets, I felt that same small feeling I got from watching the stars. When I got home, I ate up everything I could get my hands on, from books to news articles and first-hand stories, and I knew that I would have a place at NASA one day. My first telescope opened my world up even more, and the ability to get closer to space than ever before and take my own photos of the universe continues to impact me. I never missed a chance to learn, even taking astronomy as my high school science elective. Speaking of high school, mine was not like your average high school. It was on a college campus and my peers and I were blessed with the opportunity to start our college careers early and began taking college classes in 10th grade. I’m sure you are guessing I locked in astronomy or space sciences or something similar as my major. And you are almost right. This is where my story gets different. I did almost follow the same path as so many before me, but there was another passion in my heart. Psychology. You see, I loved space exploration, but even more than that, I loved the junction of space and psychology. How could people in space stay there without going crazy? How did they handle the stress of being in low earth orbit, so far from home? Or did they even find it stressful?
In 2013, I was selected as a delegate to the Florida Governor’s School for Space Science and Technology. There, 19 other Florida students and I were given behind the scenes access to Kennedy Space Center – even getting to see the Atlantis museum two weeks before it opened to the public – as well as the Olin Observatory and Ortega telescope at Florida Institute of Technology for two weeks. The first time we visited KSC, the guide asked us about what field we wanted to go into.
“Engineering?” All around me, hands went up.
“Computer science?” More hands went up.
“The biggies: Chemical engineering, mechanical, aerospace?” And by that point, I was the only one without a hand in the air.
“Okay, what about you?”
“Psychology,” And suddenly all eyes were on me. At first, I was definitely nervous, I mean, I was going to be spending two weeks with these kids and it wouldn’t be much fun if they all thought I was crazy, but then I realized what a great platform I had been given to talk about why I wanted to be a psychologist and work for NASA. Everyone at Gov School was really supportive, and they continue to be to this day. One of the most memorable moments for me was when we got to meet Astronaut Jon McBride (the first - and only - astronaut from West Virginia; he made sure we remembered that) at the Astronaut Training Experience. He spoke to each of us, and I got to speak to him about space psychology. When we had to leave, he told us we were the future. We could carry the space program further to Mars and, hey, maybe even a psychologist could help get us there. That was only further confirmation that I was right where I was supposed to be.
I went on to attend FIT, graduating with my B.A. in Psychology, with a concentration in Industrial – Organizational Psychology, at only 19. I rescued Gideon right after I graduated.
And that’s my story. Well, so far. My next step is graduate school, and I hope to one day be the first person to step foot on Mars and the first psychologist in space. Trust me, I know I'm dreaming big, but with a universe as large as this one, it’s hard not to.
Thanks for checking out the new website and reading this blog! I look forward to growing this project and I hope you'll join me for the ride.