Thursday, August 28, 2014

Career Profiles: Astronomer to University Administrator in a Center for Teaching & Learning

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Carie Cardamone, an astronomer turned Associate Director at a University-based Center for Teaching and Learning. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every Thursday.

What field do you currently work in?


What is the job title for your current position?

Associate Director at a Center for Teaching & Learning 

What is the name of your company/organization/institution?

Brown University

What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?

Providence, RI

What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received?


What is/was your ultimate/final academic position in astronomy/physics?

Postdoc (1st)

What has been your career path since you completed your degree?

During my PhD work at Yale University I was a teaching fellow in the Graduate Teacher Center, I volunteered at the Peabody Museum and the Yale Observatory, and I worked on a Citizen Science Project known as Galaxy Zoo.  After graduating, I took a postdoctoral fellow position at MIT in Physics Education research, where I had the opportunity to help in the design and teaching of an introductory physics class, and to investigate quantitative assessments of student progress.  I was particularly interested in how to combine online learning with classroom experiences.  Last year I came to Brown University to join the Center for Teaching and Learning where I now work.  I also occasionally work at the Museum of Science in Boston, teaching through their overnight programs.

What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?

One of the most useful things I gained from astronomy was the ability to research and shift through a large amount of information and then distill from it the essential parts.  Thinking about how to communicate my science to students, scientists in other fields and to the broader public was enormously important.

Describe a typical day at work.

One of the best things about my job is that every day is entirely different.  I work with faculty, postdocs, graduate students and staff across the University.  I develop and run programs through our center, and consult with instructors across the curriculum.  My office environment is not so very different than it was as an astronomer, as I still spend much of my time in front of the computer.  However, my day is broken up by meetings and events and I get the opportunity to see the campus more broadly than I did housed within a single department.

Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.

I was told about my current job by someone who worked in a similar position at Yale, and whom I had worked with when I was completing my PhD.  I wasn't on the job market at the time I applied, but one thing that I was doing while I was a postdoc was exploring different career paths.

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?

This is a difficult question.  I think that keeping an open mind is important, and making sure that you participate in many things throughout your graduate career.  Volunteer activities and hobbies, which help you relax and enjoy life during graduate school, can also be a great advantage later on.

How many hours do you work in a week?

45-50 hours. 

How family-friendly is your current position?

Moderately family friendly. 

Do you still interact with people who work (directly) in astronomy and/or are you still involved in astronomy in some way?

Yes. I am still able to find a few moments in the week when I can correspond with those that I worked with before leaving the field.  They have been very generous in letting me contribute in small ways to ongoing projects.

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?

I love reading, biking, playing boardgames and seeing my friends.