About Dr Erin Macdonald
Erin Macdonald (PhD, Astrophysics) is a tattooed one-woman STEM career panel, with recognition as a researcher, speaker, engineer, and consultant before her current career. She lives in Los Angeles working as a writer and producer and is currently the science advisor for the entire Star Trek franchise.
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[00:00:59] Television and film leading Erin down the path to astrophysics.
[00:01:51] Having a passion but not exactly a plan.
[00:02:45] Exploring academia.
[00:03:05] The challenges of academic life.
[00:03:38] Taking the advice of getting some distance from her PhD before making any career decisions.
[00:04:51] Transitioning into industry.
[00:05:01] Working multiple jobs to pay the bills.
[00:05:30] Discovering her transferable skills.
[00:06:26] The value of being able to communicate the science.
[00:08:54] Finding a space in the con circuit.
[00:10:01] Pop culture gives people a reference point for the science.
[00:13:42] The path to becoming a science advisor.
[00:13:56] Discovering that ‘science advisors’ exist planted a seed.
[00:15:06] Networking and learning more about the process.
[00:16:04] Getting on the Star Trek radar.
[00:17:20] Science advising is about “yes, and”.
[00:18:04] The day-to-day.
[00:20:31] The story comes first.
[00:22:16] The cyclical nature of science, invention and science fiction.
[00:24:42] Writing, producing, and looking to the future.
[00:25:38] Speaking to those who had come before.
[00:26:41] Pros and cons working in this space in the 90s and now.
[00:27:43] Starting to write.
[00:28:43] Producing a film: Every Morning.
[00:32:14] Finding a purpose and a place.
[00:33:39] Finding a space where you want it enough and feel that you can make a difference.
[00:34:16] Carving out a space for representation in media in various capacities.
[00:35:59] “Luck is hard work and knowing what is an opportunity and what’s not.” - Lucille Ball
[00:37:01] The pros and cons of working in academia, industry, and entertainment
[00:37:39] The pros of academia.
[00:38:24] The cons of academia.
[00:39:47] The pros and cons of industry.
[00:41:59] Cons of entertainment.
[00:42:26] Pros of entertainment.
[00:43:17] Celebrate little wins.
[00:45:08] Observations about the misconceptions about each of these industries.
[00:47:03] The rejection economy, finding ways and reasons to persevere.
[00:49:20] Finding mentorship and role models who can guide you.
[00:52:24] For academics looking to get out of academia, there are paths for you.
[00:53:59] If you’re starting a new career, don’t be too hard on yourself. You will need time to get up to speed.
[00:55:45] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[00:59:21] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[01:00:48] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[01:01:01] Get experience in science communication. The skills will benefit you throughout your career(s).
[01:02:13] Explore the creative side of your hard science.
[01:03:13] Improv and creative thinking provides tools for better and more flexible communication.
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