Irene Vargas Salazar

Grad Student, University of Michigan

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Being part of a science field or liking physics or math does not mean that you cannot be "girly".

What do you do?

I'm an astronomy grad student. I currently am doing research in massive star populations in very sparse areas of our Galaxy. I'm an observational astronomer, meaning that I take data of current observations or surveys and analyze it to obtain our results.

Why did you choose this field?

I'd always been interested in science in general, but there wasn't a specific one that caught my eye until I stumbled into astronomy. For me, that "particular moment" occurred when I was in high school and went to a talk in a planetarium about stars back in my hometown. I had been exposed to astronomy beforehand (with the existence of Cosmos and books) but this was really the moment that made me realize that I would love to do this as a career.

What attracted me about this field was the fact that because space has a lot of mysteries, meaning that it has a lot of opportunity to study things that had never been seen before. I also liked the history behind astronomy and how important it has been to society throughout humanity.

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

I currently also work in a planetarium and have obtained a certificate in science communication. Before, I thought that most of my achievements would be more research-based, so I was proud to add this one when I saw that it was possible. In the past, I would have loved to focus on this aspect of the field.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I think that science helps us understand the world little by little. So even if it is a slow process, and it is filled with many mistakes, I think it is a good opportunity to get people excited about the world around us.

Best advice for next generation?

Being part of a science field or liking physics or math does not mean that you cannot be "girly". You can always like the fact that you're coding 24/7 trying to get a research project done and still enjoy putting makeup on and wearing high heels to events. I was told and shown through media that I don't fit in either stereotype or that I "don't look like an astrophysicist". Don't believe them.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Shoot for the moon and even if you miss you'll land among the stars.”

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