In this Better Satellite World podcast series, SSPI’s Lou Zacharilla speaks with people whose lives and work inspire us because they walk “the road less travelled,” the one leading us to a wider view of space, satellites and our quest for the dwelling of light we call “The Truth.” This series features people you may have heard about but may not have yet had a chance to actually hear speak.
In the fourth episode of The Road Less Travelled, Lou speaks with Dr. Kimberly Arcand. Dr. Arcand is the Visualization Scientist & Emerging Tech Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has its headquarters at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Arcand is an award-winning producer and director. She is a leading expert in studying the perception and comprehension of high-energy data visualization across the novice-expert spectrum. As a science data storyteller, she combines her background in molecular biology and computer science with her current work in the fields of astronomy and physics.
Dr. Arcand has been a pioneer in astronomy data visualization, 3D printing and virtual reality. She presented her TEDx talk entitled “How to Hold a Dead Star in Your Hands” in 2016 on 3D printing, the same year she was selected as a “Changemaker” for the White House State of the Women Summit. In 2019, she was featured in the Smithsonian’s “How to be a Scientist” video series both for her work in 3D visualizations of astronomical objects and her work with under-represented groups in STEM. She led a team of researchers to launch the first-ever data-driven virtual reality application of a supernova remnant using NASA observational data. She was selected as a speaker for the U.S. Department of State Speaker Program in 2019, and has appeared on TV shows such as episodes of BBC’s “Universe” on BBC & PBS in 2021, “A World Without NASA” on the Curiosity channel in 2020, and Roadtrip Nation on PBS in 2020. Her recent work with SYSTEM Sounds on data sonifications for multiwavelength data and featured on NASA’s SoundCloud, went viral, and has been covered in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, BBC, CNBC, NPR, and the Today Show among others. She is currently working on holograms and applications incorporating haptic technology for astrophysics.
Dr. Arcand has also been the principal investigator for numerous NASA-funded programs as well as a project for the United Nations’ International Year of Light. She has been the recipient of group and individual awards from NASA and the Smithsonian. Dr. Arcand was team lead in the development of the Chandra submission that won the Pirelli International award for science communication in Physics in 2007. She was principal investigator and co-chair for the “From Earth to the Universe” (FETTU) astronomical exhibition project that occurred in 1,000 locations across 70 countries (in 40 languages) from 2009-2011. FETTU was awarded the Mani Bhaumik Prize for Excellence in Astronomy Education and Public Outreach for which prize Arcand co-presented the keynote speech at the Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2010 Conference, in Cape Town, South Africa. She is principle researcher in the Aesthetics and Astronomy image response research project with international participation. Arcand has been an employee of the Smithsonian Institution since June 1998, and won the Smithsonian Achievement Award in 2016.
She co-wrote the non-fiction books “Your Ticket to the Universe: A Guide To Exploring the Cosmos,” Smithsonian Books (2013); “Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond,” Black Dog & Leventhal/Hachette Book Group (2015); and “Coloring the Universe: An Insider’s Guide to Making Spectacular Images of Space,” University of Alaska press (2015). She co-authored a fourth book with Megan Watzke, “Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe,” published in 2017 with Black Dog & Leventhal, which debuted on Amazon as a #1 New Release. She co-authored “Light from the Void,” which was published by Smithsonian Books in October of 2019. Her first two children’s books were released in 2020: An Alien Helped Me with My Homework (Stillwater River Publications, February, 2020) and Goodnight Exomoon (Cottage Door Press, June, 2020). She completed her latest book, “Stars in Your Hand: A Guide to 3D Printing the Cosmos” (MIT Press, 2022) with her colleague Megan Watzke. www.kimarcand.com
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