Alumni Profile: Heather Bloemhard, BS Physics; Astronomy ’08

Alumna Heather Bloemhard discusses how she adapts to work as an introvert in our latest Alumni Profile.

Photo courtesy of Heather Bloemhard.

Photo courtesy of Heather Bloemhard.

Name: Heather Bloemhard

Mason Degree: BS, Physics, Astronomy 2008

Occupation: John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow at the American Astronomical Society (AAS)

I chose my majors because…I wanted an in-depth understanding of how the world works.

My favorite Mason memory is…The Physics Club and the Chemistry Club put together a science night with lots of fun demonstrations. This was probably my first attempt at participating in an event to communicate science with the general audience.

Professionally, I’m most proud of…the fact that I have earned a Ph.D. in Physics, and have been able to pursue a career in science policy.

I advise current students to…take advantage of the breadth of opportunities GMU has to offer, even if it’s not related to your degree. You might be surprised at how useful these things end up being to your career.

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More from the COS interview with Heather Bloemhard

What’s next for you after completing your fellowship?
I plan to stay in science policy and, hopefully, to increase my interactions with the science community. That means that I’m focused on jobs that include facilitating communications between scientists and policy makers. I’m intrigued by how this is done within science agencies, like NASA and NSF, and within agencies that are less obviously involved but still have a pivotal role in science, like the State Department. I’m also looking at places like the National Academies, which helps coordinate the science community to reach a consensus on a variety of topics.

Why do you think it’s important to talk about science with those outside the community?
It’s our responsibility as scientists to help the general public understand what our research is and why it’s important. Science outreach is almost grass-roots advocacy. By making sure that our friends and neighbors understand why federal investment in science is important, we are also working to increase the number of people who will help advocate against funding cuts to science programs. When we talk about science with non-science people we are helping to foster an appreciation for science and the scientific process. Science requires you to question what you know and to consider evidence as you form answers. Sometimes science means that the answer changes as new evidence comes to light.

What’s an interesting fact about you?
I am an introvert, and because of my work, I needed to learn to use my introverted tendencies to my advantage.

How do you use being an introvert to your advantage?
Simply acknowledging that I’m an introvert has been an advantage. I also acknowledged that I have limits to the number of days in a row with back-to-back meetings that I can handle. That helped me figure out how to take care of myself and how to most effectively manage my time. Part of this is also that I always think through interactions. My goal is always to figure out the best way to handle each interaction; I’m defining best as requiring the least amount of energy during the interaction itself. A consequence is that I am frequently over-prepared. That said, I’ve also been learning that, while I want to think through each and every interaction, I can’t prepare for every possibility. It’s taken a bit of effort on my part to realize that this is ok.