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Jillian Scudder - Four Way Interview

(c) Jennifer Manna
Jillian Scudder is an astrophysicist and assistant professor at Oberlin College, Ohio. She has been writing Astroquizzical, a blog answering space-related questions from the public, for over four years. Her writing has also been published in Forbes, Quartz, Medium, and The Conversation. Astroquizzical is her first book.

Why science?

 I honestly really just love the process of trying to work out something new. Being a scientist lets me do that on multiple fronts - research is a process of trying to sort out something that no one has ever learned before in the most careful way you can, but at the end of that process, you've learned something absolutely brand new. Being a scientist also means explaining what you do to other people, and that's it's own kind of puzzle. No two people have the same information background, so when you're trying to figure out how to explain something, it's different every time. 

Why this book?

I'd been running Astroquizzical the blog for about three years. Since the blog's format is to answer questions that get sent in by the general public, I had generated a lot of requested information about space. At some point, I figured that I had collected enough to fill a book, and I thought that it should work well as a book for a general audience. It took a lot of rewriting to make it a smooth read, instead of a series of articles, and what came out the other end is a book that covers a lot more of the oddball facts of space than your standard introduction to astronomy book might do.

What’s next?
I've got a lot of things happening - I've just started a teaching position at Oberlin College in Ohio, so there's some settling in to do there, but the blog will continue and has continued while the book was under way! I've no plans to stop answering questions for the blog Astroquizzical anytime soon, so there will be lots of new content from me anyways. On top of all this, I'm still an active researcher, trying to understand how galaxy interactions work, so I'm looking forward to new discoveries there too!

What’s exciting you at the moment?

I'm really excited to have the book out and being read by lots of new people! This is a new experience for me, so it's really cool to see people pick it up and take one home. On a science front, I just got back from a conference with a bunch of people who all study galaxy interactions, and so I got to catch up on all the cool stuff everyone else is doing, and try to brainstorm new ideas with collaborators, which is really exciting. I find conferences really invigorating! 

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