Hi Astronoblog readers! Maya Barlev here, Haverford astrophysics major, and member of the class of 2012.
This summer, I’m working with Universe Awareness, (UNAWE), an international non-profit organization that aims to “inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.” UNAWE works in 40 countries around the world, primarily in disadvantaged communities. With the support from Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, (CPGC), I’ve been working as an intern at UNAWE’s headquarters in Leiden, the Netherlands.
As an intern, I’ve designed a board game about light and the solar system, written a “how-to” guide for people wanting to start their own local UNAWE program, developed ideas for a UNAWE program in the United States, written updates for the website, and much more. While I haven’t been working directly with children, I have been spending a lot of time thinking and writing about how to successfully communicate science with young kids.
One of UNAWE’s main goals is to connect science and social justice by teaching children “unity under one sky.” Despite location or circumstance, children all belong to the same globe, and observe the same Universe. This aspect of UNAWE is what sets it apart from any other astronomy outreach organization, and what drew me to it in the first place.
Through working with UNAWE, I have gained a greater idea of what I’d like to do with my astrophysics major in the future. I love astronomy, and have loved doing research, but what I enjoy most is giving and sharing what I know. I would love to work with organizations like UNAWE in the future to share my knowledge of astronomy with those who may not be able learn about our amazing Universe otherwise.
The UNAWE office is located within the Leiden University Sterrewacht, or astronomy department. Leiden is world-renowned for its astronomy, with such famous scientists as Ehrenfest, Lorentz, (for which my building is named after), Snell and Oort as alumni and faculty, and Einstein as a regular visiting faculty member. There’s a wall in the department signed by important physicists and astronomers, and it was really amazing to see the handwriting up close of N. Bohr, A. Einstein, etc. :
Currently, the department is still kickin’, with about 40 faculty members, and over 60 PhD students. Earlier in the summer (before people went on vacation), I regularly attended astronomy talks and colloquia. Also, I have made some great friends with PhD students, and have learned a lot about what it’s like to pursue a degree in astronomy.