Elena Manjavacas

Staff Astronomer at W. M. Keck Observatory


Just keep going! Stereotypes are only in our minds.

What do you do?

My job consists in helping other astronomers to perform successful observations using the instrumentation available at the Keck telescopes. In addition, as a Staff Astronomer, I carry out my own research on the field of Low-mass stars, Brown Dwarfs and Giant Exoplanets.

Why did you choose this field?

I discovered astronomy when I was around 8 years old. We had a science class about astronomy, and the topic fascinated me from the beginning. In particular, I was enchanted with the idea of the existence of other suns, and other worlds outside the Earth. In addition, in the small town were I grew up we have a very good sky, which encouraged me to observe it a lot. Then, my uncle gave me my first telescope as a Christmas present, that felt to me like the most precious thing in the Universe (I still have it, indeed). After that, I was convinced I wanted to become an astronomer, although my family didn't understand what that really meant, or if I would be able to economically support myself with that job. Now they know :)

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Being fluent in 3 languages (Spanish, English and German), and becoming an expert on my field, and an expert on instrumentation. I always thought that I would not enjoy doing instrumentation!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love to think that any little discovery we do, even if it's not completely novel, it's completely new to humanity. I find that fascinating. In addition, I hope to be a role model for young girls and minorities, because science belongs to everyone!

Best advice for next generation?

Just keep going! Stereotypes are only in our minds.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"If you really want something, and you really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way". Jane Goodall.

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