Per Aspera Ad Astra with Rose DF


We’re joined by science enthusiast and advocate, Rose DF (@_Astro_Nerd_), to chat about our passion for science and space, her struggles and experiences on her journey into STEM, and her science communication projects (like ChickTech).

About Our Guest:

Born and raised in Hispaniola, Rose DF has always looked up towards the stars in pursuit of outer space and science. In the absence of female role models during her youth, she grew up to become her own and representation in STEM continues to be one of her main passions. Rose has a unique way of inspiring people to get excited about science and STEM inclusivity through various science communication platforms, like her Twitter. She is currently pursuing a biophysics program in New York, but she’s an avid lover of every field of science.

Find her on Twitter (@_Astro_Nerd_) and on her website.

Links & Resources:

+ Transcript

MALE ANNOUNCER: Ignition sequence start: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

[upbeat jazz music starts playing]

ANNOUNCER: Zero. All engine running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour.

FEMALE VOICE (AMELIA EARHART): Within itself, this industry embraces many of those scientific accomplishments, which yesterday seemed fantastic impossibilities.

MALE VOICE (JOHN F. KENNEDY): Together, let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

[upbeat jazz music fades out]

FEMALE ROBOTIC VOICE: You’re listening to the Synapse Science Podcast.

SYNAPSE SCIENCE: Per aspera ad astra... I hope you’ll forgive my pronunciation, but it’s a Latin saying that translates roughly to, “Through difficulties to the stars.” It’s an apt title for this episode, because today’s guest is a beacon of adversity and perseverance on her journey towards science. And it’s especially appropriate because she’s also a big fan of outer space. Maybe you know who I’m talking about already - today on the show, we’re joined by Rose (@Astro Nerd_ on Twitter). Born and raised in Hispaniola, Rose has always looked up towards the stars in pursuit of science and outer space. In the absence of scientific role models during her youth, she grew up to become one herself to many folks in the science community, and representation in STEM continues to be one of her main passions. Rose has a unique way of inspiring people to get excited about science and STEM inclusivity through various science communication platforms, like Twitter. She is currently pursuing a biophysics program in New York, but she’s an avid lover of every field of science out there.

We talk about all of this and more in this episode. Hope you enjoy!

[sound of cassette tape being inserted and playing]

SYNAPSE: So you’re kind of a science rockstar in my eyes, to be honest. You bring so much energy and passion to science communication and science literacy. Where did that passion and energy originate from, for you?

ROSE: That’s probably the biggest cliché ever, but ever since I was little. I didn’t know, to be honest, that there was a name for what I like. Because we don’t have that in - where I was born - in Dominican Republic. It’s just - I was curious about everything, all the time. And nobody was giving me answers to anything. So… [laughter] There was this one time I turned on the TV - on one of the days we didn’t have blackouts - and I happened to see National Geographic, and that was the closest thing I ever saw of anything scientific. And it just kinda stayed with me. But later on in life, when I came here to the US, that’s when I realized this is actually a thing. You have science, it’s science - it’s what it’s called. But I’ve always been passionate about it forever! [laughter]

SYNAPSE: Yeah, I remember you mentioning that - because you originate from Hispaniola and the Dominican Republic specifically - I remember you mentioning that you didn’t see any Dominican female scientists or role models…

ROSE: No, we don’t. We don’t have any. I mean - I, personally, I didn’t grow up with any. I didn’t even know of male scientists at all, and then when I got older, and I learned about everything that I really wanted to do, I started looking for Dominican scientist because I wanted to see if there was anyone else out there. But I only found one, and I talked about her on Twitter before. And that was many years ago, and I guess she’s the only one known...and I guess me now! [laughter] I’m still looking! Still looking...

SYNAPSE: Yeah! Yeah, I was trying to Google some, as well, and...I think I found - I don’t remember which scientist you talked about on Twitter - who was it?

ROSE: Idelisa. Idelisa Bonnelly.

SYNAPSE: Idelisa! Right! Yeah. Um, I heard of Aida Ripley, who is a psychologist who’s also from the Dominican Republic, as well. But I saw this Wikipedia page specifically for female scientists from the Dominican Republic, and there’s only two women on there.

ROSE: Yeah! That’s basically what I found.

SYNAPSE: Yeah. And it makes me wonder if there are more out there that just aren’t getting that kind of recognition.

ROSE: I would hope so. I mean, that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I’ve been online...trying to find them but haven’t yet. So I guess, when it comes to being out there, I might be the only one after her. But hopefully not the last one! [laughter]

SYNAPSE: [laughter] Yeah, yeah! I think it’s great that you’re growing into this kind of role model for other women to look up to.

ROSE: Oh god. That’s a lot of pressure [laughter]! I didn’t know I was a role model!

SYNAPSE: [laughter] No pressure, no pressure, right?

I was actually - I was talking to Melissa Marquez last week, and she was saying something kinda similar, like growing up, she didn’t have many role models who were like her, in that respect. And she feels like she has to kind of - not she has to but she’s growing into that space for other women to look up to, you know? Somebody that she would have wanted to see when she was younger.

ROSE: That’s the same way I feel. That’s why - I’ve seen on Twitter - two sides of the whole thing. I see people who came from struggle, also, and who are Latina women, and they say that they don’t wanna be called inspirational, they don’t wanna be seen as somewhat of a role model. Me, personally, I don’t really care about the labels as long as if somebody sees me that way, and that person has any kind of privilege, then use that to help me to open the path for other people. I don’t care what they call me. So that’s why I don’t really make a fuss over, “Oh, I don’t wanna be called inspirational…”

To be honest, I understand why some people would see...struggling as inspirational. Because if you look in science, everybody - when they talk about making it - it’s always somebody with a straight path. You don’t see a lot of, “Oh well, this person was homeless at some point. This person went through abuse.” These are things that they actually tell you that would stand in the way of you doing something like that. Which is why, without me realizing, that kinda became my platform where I went through all this stuff and now everybody sees that as, “Wow!” and “You made it!”. And I’m like, “I made it where?” [laughter]

SYNAPSE: [laughter]

ROSE: I’m like, “I’m just trying to do some science!” feels good, if somebody looks at that and be like, “Wow! If she did it, I can do it.” Then great! Let’s go for that! That’s what I want.

SYNAPSE: Uh-huh. Yeah, that’s - that’s funny, too, that people who say to you like, “Wow, you’re so inspirational!” And for you, it’s like, “This is my life, you know? This is the path that I walked.”

ROSE: Hey, if it was to get to this...I’m gonna say it was worth it. Honestly. Because I’m enjoying it! I mean, I joined Twitter last year (officially) just to...have something to do while I was recovering from the accident that you all know about now.

And it turned into this big thing now where I’m just a part of the community, basically. The whole scientific community. I have people actually listening to me. I’m getting involved in projects and helping and...I like that. I love it. I just love the doing, the helping. That’s what I’m there for.

SYNAPSE: Mm-hmm. I love that energy that you bring to it, honestly.

ROSE: Oh yeah, I’m a sucker for actual love of science. I know I sound like very childish, but I’m one of those people who has it - I love it! [laughter]

SYNAPSE: [laughter] Yeah, I mean….I think what’s the saying now, that being apathetic and uncaring about your passions is like so last year?

ROSE: I mean I can be like that about a lot of other things. But science, I think, is the one thing that 1) saved my life and 2) has basically kept me going. Because I want to do all these things. I still want to do a lot of the things that I couldn’t when I was younger.

And right now, I’d like to think I’m providing help for younger people to also find that desire to actually like it. Because you find a lot of people out there that they’re pretty quick to discourage. That’s what I got the most. So that’s - we have plenty of that out there. I don’t need to be doing that. If anybody finds any help in me however, then gladly take it.

SYNAPSE: Mm-hmm. And I actually kind of wanted to touch on that a little bit, if you’re okay talking about it. Like, what kind of obstacles you had to overcome in the world of STEM that are specific to maybe your heritage, your gender, how people view you - based on social biases and things like that?

ROSE: [inhale] Well, I guess I will have to move past the whole abusive situation and stuff like that and go right to the point where I finally got myself off the streets and I wasn’t homeless anymore and tried to put myself through college. One of the first things I heard when I went there - because I didn’t have any guidance, I didn’t even know how to start - and I told them what I wanted to do, that I just wanted to do science. And the first advisor that I ever saw, the first thing that this person told me was, “Are you sure that’s what you wanna do? You wouldn’t wanna do something easier because we don’t really wanna - um - [pause] set you up for failure?”

And I was just sitting there like, I asked, “Why - what do you mean? Why did you say that?”

“Oh, because you’re a single mom...And also, you know, you were not in school before. And you just came from abuse. And I don’t know if you’re gonna be able to handle this.”

Back then, I didn’t really have the mentality to really handle that. I actually believed that I wasn’t capable of doing it. ...I went ahead anyways and did it. [both chuckle]

But I was really doubtful, and it crushed me. ‘Cause I had teachers also who had that kind of attitude. So it took a lot out of me, in between going through some of the domestic abuse that I was going through while I was going through school. Thankfully, I found a few teachers in there that had a little more faith. And that’s what kept me going. But particularly, yeah, I get a lot of, “[disbelieving] Are you sure? Because you’re a single mom. Isn’t that too much for you?” Like even with jobs, I’ve been told that so many times, it’s ridiculous.

So now, after the accident and after being out for like, 3 and a half years, because I was trying to, you know, establish myself financially and things like that. That’s one of the main things I said. I said, I’m going back to school now. Like, I said to everybody on Twitter. And I said, the first thing I’m going to do is step into that office and tell the advisor, “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. This is what I wanna do, tell me where to go. And that’s it.” I don’t wanna hear any bad words or any discouragement. I don’t care. Even if it’s hard, even if I have to take time to cry...I’m doing it. And that’s just what it is.

That’s what you have to tell yourself. People are gonna say that you cannot do it. People are gonna doubt it. So what? Just do it. It’s just what it is.

SYNAPSE: Mm-hmm. I think that’s a great mentality to have, you know? To go in and be like, “You know, I don’t need your validation or your opinion on whether I can do this. Your job is to tell me how I can achieve this. So do that.”

ROSE: And I always felt - that’s one of the issues that I’ve been trying to bring up a lot on Twitter now that I’m forming kind of a platform. I don’t believe that anybody that’s in education or in a position to mentor someone should be discouraging you. They have a confusion where they think that it’s either they have to hold your hand and help you every step of the way or they have to discourage you. You don’t have to do either of those. Point the person to where the person wants to go. If you have any tips, give them the tips, give them the tools. If you don’t have it, move out of the way. Let someone else do it. Send them to someone who can.

Just don’t discourage anybody. I - I get so aggravated when I see that, with teachers, with anybody. I don’t like seeing anybody discouraging other people. Mentally, that takes a toll on you. I mean - it’s just very hard to deal with that, and not everybody can handle it. It took me a long time to just get over it and like, keep going.

SYNAPSE: Yeah. Yeah, it totally does take a mental toll, like you said. Like for a lot of us who get discouraged going into STEM fields - you know, when we’re faced with those challenges and trying to understand material that’s complex, that voice kind of grows in the back of your head sometimes. Like, well that person doesn’t think I can do it so maybe I really can’t, you know? I’m already struggling in this and this… So it kind of builds up, the more people that discourage you.

ROSE: It stays there. So many people tell you that you can’t do something, you start believing it. And there’s a huge difference, which is why - I mean, I’ve gotten a lot of people on Twitter - just as I have a lot of supportive people, I get a lot of people who say, “Oh, don’t make it about the race!” I never liked labeling myself. I never brought up the fact that I was born in DR and I was raised in DR, but the reason why I started doing that is because I don’t think people understand the difference between...a Hispanic person who was born in the United States and still has a lot of the advantages and the ability to go to school for these things versus someone who was born and raised in a poor country like that, who doesn’t even know that women can actually do these things. To grow up and be able to cross over and do this. So that’s what I try to explain to people. This is very difficult to do that. Because when I got here, I still didn’t know that women were allowed to do that. And even when I found out, I thought that I wasn’t the type of woman that could do that. I had to convince myself of that. And they don’t have platforms here to tell women like me, or children like me, that, “Yeah, they can!”

Which is why I’m such a big fan of scicomm and inclusivity and everything like that because that’s basically the message that they base everything on, “If you have a passion for science, come over here, there’s something for you. We can work that out.” I don’t like the side of science where it’s just, everything is competition. And success has to be, “Oh, you’re very famous. You have x amount of papers out, and that’s all that matters”. No! I don’t wanna let go of that part of me that just thinks it’s about the discovery. That’s why I like learning about everything.

I mean, I love space, everybody knows that. [chuckle] But I don’t talk about just that. I wanna learn about everything! All of it. And I want people to get excited about it, too! Which is why I make such a big fuss on Twitter [both laugh] about everything science-related. It’s just how - I’m not acting, that’s just how I am. Because I’m so happy that I even have the option now to go to school, to be exposed to these things.

When I started meeting female scientists on Twitter - I’m gonna be 33 years old, and that just started happening last year. People don’t realize how huge that is. It’s - It’s almost like, I’m reborn in that regard. It’s like a whole new world for me, and I’ve been loving this my entire life. It’s like they set me loose, “Oh, here’s the science! Go get it!” [laughter] I’m just like a kid in a candy store!


SYNAPSE: [laughter] So when you were a kid, did anything in particular catch your interest or were you just interested in like, all of science?

ROSE: I just - I just wanted to know how everything worked. Everything. Like if I saw animals, I wanted to know why they looked the way they looked, why they acted how they acted. If I saw plants, I wanted to know why the color was that color, why they die, why they produce the food that they produce. Everything to me was like, “Why? Why is this happening?”

And I couldn’t find it anywhere. I grew up very limited in information and...very sheltered, actually, because I went to a Catholic school. And the answer to everything was: God created it. And we didn’t have the option of asking questions.

As far as women being scientists, that - that was out of the question. I grew up thinking that - they even said that in one of the pieces that they wrote about me - I grew up thinking that I’m supposed to just grow up, get married, and have some kids. To me, that was the goal that I was supposed to do.

[pause] And tsk, look at that. Look at me now! [both laugh] That’s why you have to put it out there, because you never know who you’re impacting. You never know.

SYNAPSE: [laughter] Yeah, that’s awesome - forging your path, in your own way.

ROSE: And you talk about me being a role know what? You and all the other girls on Twitter, all these other women of science - you guys give me life. Seriously. [laughter]

SYNAPSE: Aw, thank you! I uh - you know, I like to believe that - you know they talk about the strongest forces in the universe, in terms of physics and everything... I genuinely think one of the strongest social forces is like, the women in science and how supportive they are of each other. Because that is like immoveable, you know, that’s the thing that kind of keeps me going through all the tough times.

ROSE: I love it. I just, I - [laughter] I absolutely love it. I can’t even - I’m not even going to try and hide it.

SYNAPSE: [laughter] Yeah, and you also mentioned one of those pieces that someone wrote about you - I think it’s Stories in Science, which we’ll link in the show notes for anyone to read - and I highly recommend that you do, I thought it was a really fantastic piece...

ROSE: I get so many mixed comments. I mean, I get a lot of wonderful comments about it, and then I got people - it’s so strange - because I have people coming (I mean, we know what kind of people are those [chuckle]), but I got a lot of people coming in and saying, “Oh, you’re a sob story. Or you’re just trying to get sympathy.” And I was like, how is me suffering trying to get symp - like, nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Oh, I wanna be homeless. Or I wanna be abused. Or I never want to be able to do the things I love.” No one does that! Like, who does that? [laughter]

So, after seeing so many people message me and come in and say, “Oh my god, I can’t believe that that was you, that you went through that, and look at you now.” Because people assume if they see you out there with a couple followers, that you have it together. And you’re this girl who just has the - the whole way paved for her. [laughter] And it’s like no, I want you to understand that I’m not that at all. I don’t have it together. I’m a total mess. You know what I do, though? I don’t give up. That’s my superpower. I don’t know how to give up.

SYNAPSE: [laughter]

ROSE: [laughter] At all. I needed people to know that. [chuckle] And it was really hard for me, too, because I never really opened up...about anything. I didn’t talk about my daughter’s death, never talked about being homeless to anyone that wasn’t really close to me. So, it was really kind of a big step for me to put that out there, but...I think it had a good - a good impact, so...

SYNAPSE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, definitely, I’d say so. I’ve been sharing that story with a few people, actually -

ROSE: Really?

SYNAPSE: Yeah! With especially like older people I know know, they feel like they’re up against the window of the little science house, kind of looking in, and they wanna get in but they don’t know how. And you know, I’ve occasionally talked to them about some of the stories of like women scientists on Twitter and more recently, I’ve been sharing your story, too. And I’m like, “Look. If this chick can do it, can persevere through all of this, you got this. Don’t worry about it.

ROSE: [laughter] Yeah…

SYNAPSE: Just don’t - don’t give up.

You have a place and you belong there, and you should fight for that right to belong there. And they’ll come back and they’ll be like, “Oh my god, did you - I read this story, and it’s amazing.”

ROSE: [laughter]

SYNAPSE: So I’m grateful that you put that out there. And yeah, that must have been taxing to put that story about your life out there online, but I’m really glad and grateful that you did.

ROSE: Thank you. I’m just glad that it’s helping anybody that it’s helping. That’s all you can hope for, really. And I know that sounds maybe cheesy to some people. But I’m one of those - I am definitely one of those. I just wanna help whenever I can. If I get to do it through what I love, then that’s even better.

SYNAPSE: Yeah! Yeah, I feel that. So now, you’re actually having the opportunity to do some of that science first-hand...and you just recently started a biophysics program, is that right?

ROSE: That is - yeah - that’s what I’m starting. It’s a little bit odd because um, I thought at first that I wanted to mix astro with neuroscience. Because I love the two and I didn’t just wanna pick one. I found a school that would actually allow me to do that, but [chuckle] I was reading all the concentrations and realized that I really love biophysics.

And even though the curriculum is really heavy in math, and I’m - just for everybody who thinks that everyone who loves science loves math, I do not. [both laugh] Not all. I really don’t. [laughter] But I just really love it, because it encompasses so many things that I love into one single subject. So I figure that’s just the way to do it because I want to have the opportunity to work in different areas. I don’t just wanna limit myself, even though space would always be my main, I do like to have the biology background, and I like to have some chemistry even if I’m not a big fan of it. I love physics,’s just cool.

So what I’m doing right now is actually checking into the school and seeing what kind of courses I need - because I’ve been out for a while - and I’m a little rusty, I have to say. I have a lot of experience, but that’s medical - totally different thing. So I’m making a huge change. It’s basically like I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to be doing years ago. So, that’s what I’ve been keeping tabs on because people ask me a lot, “Oh, what’s your background? Because we know that you do medicine, but what do you do on this side? And on this -“

That’s really confusing because I got into medicine by accident. It was by circumstance, and then I just sort of stayed in there because a girl has to pay bills. And that’s exactly what’s happening now. I’m still going to work in medicine to pay for school, to pay for my science.

So stay tuned for all the crying [both laugh] and the long papers and everything because it’s gonna happen. Yeah, that’s where it’s at it right now. [chuckle]

I’ve always been kind of a biology girl. I think that was just, like, implanted in me since I was young. But the space thing, it was just because I always wanted to leave the planet. So yeah, here’s the chance. We’ll see what happens. I’m - I’m hoping that nothing else happens that gets in the way, like I don’t get hit by another car…

SYNAPSE: Aw… [both laugh]

ROSE: Or I don’t have to fight too many discouraging faculty or anything like that. Because I’m about done with that nonsense. [laughter]

People look at you, and they’re like, “Oh, you’re so young! 33! You have your whole life - ” And I’m like, no, I feel like I’m 90, okay? [both laugh] I don’t have - I don’t have my whole life. I already wasted a ton of it.

SYNAPSE: [laughter] So I have to ask, as somebody who’s also into space and brains, what was it that sparked your interest in both space and neuroscience?

ROSE: Well, the space part - I guess since I was little, like I said, I wanted to leave. Mostly because I felt like if I left, I would be able to explore everything. That was my mentality. So I became obsessed with being an astronaut. Unfortunately, because I didn’t really know that I could do that, I never went for it. And I never really had the possibility for it, also, to study it or pursue really any - any avenue to it. But I always loved it. It might be also because I love sci-fi. It’s really connected to that - I’m like obsessed with sci-fi.

Neuroscience - that’s a little sadder. [laughter] The reason I got interested in neuro was because of human behavior. Because I have dealt with so much abuse and so many different kinds, I always had this need to understand why people did those things. I didn’t know that that was a science, also, but apparently human behavior falls into that. So I got really interested, you know? The motives for people to do what they do - and not really in the psychological side of things, but mostly, I guess more the biological sense. Like, the effects of abuse and what it does to your brain. How you change after that - because I saw the changes in me also. So that got me really into neuro. I read a lot of books about it. I read a lot of books on PTSD because I got it. And um, I got really into it. So, that’s just basically what it was.

SYNAPSE: Mm-hmm. That’s interesting, yeah. In terms of space, if...for example, NASA or ESA or any of these space agencies, called you up tomorrow and said, “Hey, we have a flight suit with your name on it. We can take you anywhere in the solar system or the galaxy for like, a week Earth-time. Where would you pick to go?

ROSE: Jupiter.

SYNAPSE: Jupiter?

ROSE: [laughter]

SYNAPSE: How come? Why Jupiter?

ROSE: In our solar system! The reason why I say is because I always liked the planet, I mean, I was obsessed with it. Because it’s so weird! [both laugh] I would love to see that up close! be honest, anywhere. I would be happy if I get to go to the ISS. Even if I just get to look down on Earth, that would - that would be enough.

I actually had a joke, and I said it to a few people, I said that if I ever made it to space, and I happen to die - if I die leaving, then people are allowed to cry. Because that means that I never made it. If I die in re-entry, everybody needs to celebrate, nobody should cry for me, because that means I died happy. [laughter] And to this day, it’s the same thing, I still mean it. [laughter]

SYNAPSE: I like that, though! I like that!

ROSE: Yeah, I don’t want anybody to be sad if I die in re-entry. That totally means I made it!

SYNAPSE: Yeah! That just like - that just shook my world. That’s such a great way of looking about it.

ROSE: Really?


ROSE: [laughter] It’s always been like that, it’s such a deep thing. Like, I don’t see myself being sad if I make it up there. That’s all I ever wanted to do, so…

SYNAPSE: Yeah! Yeah, I was actually - I was having a conversation with somebody about Mars, and they were talking about doing settlements on Mars and things like that, and they were like, “If you had the chance, would you go?” And I was like, “Oh, absolutely. I’d leave in like, the next five minutes if I could, you know?”

ROSE: Yep.

SYNAPSE: And they’re like, “Wouldn’t it be lonely out there?” And I’m like, “[shocked] I’m on MARS, you know? Like, I don’t care!”

ROSE: [laughter] Yeah, I think it’s a love thing. When you love it, you just - you don’t think about it like that. Like, I don’t think about it as, “Oh, I need people. And I need this - ” Like, I have a son! And - [both laugh]

ROSE: And I’m like, if they tell me to go, I’ll be like, save me my bag, I’m leaving without any - like, I’m not even packing. [both laugh]

You have to have that love for it. I don’t know how else to put it.

SYNAPSE: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. It’s like that not that end goal - but like, that star in the sky that you’re always looking up towards and wanting to achieve.

ROSE: Yep.

SYNAPSE: So you’re also sharing all these awesome pictures of space and you did some processing on some images that you can check out on Rose’s website (I’ll put a link in the show notes, as well). And you do a lot of promoting science communication and literacy on there, as well. So I have to ask, why does science literacy mean so much to you, personally?

ROSE: Mostly because I grew up without it and I saw how hard it was for me to make sense of the world around me. Having no one being able to explain things to me. Not having any science classes, not having anyone informed, not having any books around that I could just read. Here, we have so much access, and you have people willingly being ignorant just - just because. And it just breaks my heart. I’m like, I understand if you don’t know something and then somebody opens your eyes to it, and you - you get it. But people refuse...facts here. It’s just - it’s hard for me to see it.

So I don’t try to force anybody to like science, but I try to love it openly. And if that’s contagious to anybody, then great!

SYNAPSE: [laughter]

ROSE: Yeah… It always comes down to the love! As cheesy as it sounds! I’m - I’m that girl! I’m in love with it. I see a lot of people in science who say, “Oh, I don’t - I don’t have that pretty idea or the pretty love. I just got into science because I saw something and I liked it -”

And I’m like, “No, that’s not me. I love it, sorry!” [both laugh] I just do! That’s what I want, I want to be surrounded by that, too. ‘Cause those are the people that keep you going. They really are.

SYNAPSE: Absolutely, yeah. The kind of people that like message you at 3 am and they’re like, “Do you know what a worm’s intestine looks like? Let me show you a picture.” And you’re like, “Great. This is awesome!”

ROSE: I love that! I love - you are all, literally, the best people to have around. Because I get, any given day, I get the randomest messages. “Did you see that they found in Egypt this new thing?”

And then the next day [laughter] and then the next day, somebody’s talking about this new animal or whatever that they discovered. And then the following day, something about space. Just like, every day, I see something that - I love that. Who doesn’t like that?! Life is so boring without that!

SYNAPSE: [laughter] Totally, yeah. Also, in relation to the science communication you do, I heard that you’re also recently involved in an organization called ChickTech, is that right?

ROSE: Yes. They’re a non-profit, and they - basically, what they base their entire mission on is to expose younger girls to science, usually technology, but they’re trying to expand now more because they were - it was mostly coding and technological stuff, and we decided to kinda expand that. Because the schools that they go to are from underrepresented areas and stuff like that, so they don’t really get science education, they don’t get exposed. And a lot of these girls, once you show them what they can do, they get really into it.

So that’s why they have events where - we actually have one coming up, May 13 and the 12th - and that’s the kickoff for the workshops that are coming later in the year, where we get a lot of mentors and they provide mentorship and they provide workshops about technology for free. They raise all the money for these girls, also for the transportation, the food, and everything, just to have them exposure. Because sparking that, you never know, if any of these girls are going to end up in science. And it’s the kind of thing because they’ve never been exposed to it before, they don’t even know if they like it.

So I found out about the New York Chapter because I have a friend who works at Columbia University, and he talked about me to one of the people involved. So, it was like, “Oh, this is about women in STEM! And this is right up your alley!” So she contacted me, and I was like, “Yep! Sign me up!” Anything you need, and that was that! [laughter]

SYNAPSE: That’s awesome, yeah! So what kind of stuff do you do specifically within the organization, within ChickTech?

ROSE: I do everything. [both laugh] Anything they need. I told them, I said, you know what if it’s something I can manage, you throw it at me and I’ll do it. Right now, I’m working on the newsletter, which is actually the first one, because they never had one before. It’s gonna have an introduction to the organization, the workshops, some of the leaders, some of the dates. And then later on, we’re gonna have the brochure which, I’m also gonna design. I’m even the unofficial photographer! I signed myself up for that, for the kickoff event -

SYNAPSE: That’s awesome!

ROSE: Yeah! Because I just wanna be involved. I mean, it’s what I was saying online before - from a girl who didn’t have any exposure to science, to be able to show science to other girls, it’s like, come on! [chuckle] So yeah, I’m just pretty much doing anything. Anything that needs to be done, I’m just like, I’ll take it. [laughter] Administrative, mentorship, whatever...doesn’t matter! [chuckle]

SYNAPSE: [laughter] Nice! Yeah, if folks want to check out the organization, you can find them at or on Twitter @chicktechorg.

So I wanted to mention before we go, you have such a great story of adversity and perseverance, and I’m so happy that you’re in a place now where you can pursue all these opportunities and also share that with others - I think that’s wonderful.

If there’s any kind of advice you could give people - young or old - who were also trying or maybe even struggling to get into science, what kind of advice would you give them?

ROSE: First, figure out if you really love it because I think that’s what you need the most. The people who say that it’s not about passion, they don’t know what they’re talking about. If you really love it, go for it. If you go for it, don’t give up. Seriously, like that’s - to me, that’s like the best advice I can give anybody.

When you love something - and you apply that to everything in life - when you really love something, it’s not gonna come easy, and it’s gonna be very easy for you to want to quit when it gets hard, when you don’t feel happy all the time. It’s the human condition. That’s how we are. If something gets a little hard, we’re not satisfied, we wanna go for the easy thing. Don’t. Just keep at it. If you really love it, keep at it.

Look at me! Come on. [laughter]

SYNAPSE: Yeah! I think that is solid advice to live by. If you want to follow Rose on Twitter, you can follow her @_AstroNerd. And you can find links to everything we talked about, including social media and all that stuff, on

Thank you so much for being on the show, Rose!

ROSE: [laughter] Thank you!

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SYNAPSE: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Synapse Science Podcast, and a special thank you to our special guest, Rose. If you need links to her social media, resources on anything we talked about in this show, or a transcript for today’s episode, you can find them in our show notes over on our website at

As always, you can find us chatting about interdisciplinary and intersectional science over on our Twitter @synapsepod. If you’d like to get in touch with us for comments, questions, or anything else, you can email us at And if you like this podcast, let us know by giving us a rating and a review on iTunes to help boost the show.

Thanks so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and until next time, have a wonderful week!

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Speeches sampled in the show's introduction are found in the public domain and used under fair use for educational purposes - find out more here. All music tracks are attributed to Kevin MacLeod and are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 The Synapse Science Podcast is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.