Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Career Profiles: Astronomer to Associate Director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute

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 Doris Daou, an astronomer turned Associate Director of the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. 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 http://aas.org/jobs/career-profiles. 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 of the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (NASA SSERVI)

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

NASA Lunar Science Institute

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

Washington, DC

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


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

Graduate Student

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

1) Research and Data Analysis
2) Instrument Team and NASA Mission Support.
3) Education and Public Outreach
4) Management
5) NASA HQ Program Officer
6) Management
7) Management and NASA HQ Discipline Scientist

What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia?

1) Took advantage of any option offered.   
2) Planned a flexible path for career advancement.

If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time?

1) First Career Change at Age of 30  
2) Most recent was a year ago!

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

Learning how to be interactive with colleagues. Planning ahead and being objective.

What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?

Management Course as well as Communications Courses.

Describe a typical day at work.

Meetings. Preparing reports and presentations for senior management. Run proposal reviews, email reviewers, email proposers. Review budgets.

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

Through community network. 

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

That there are various paths. Flexibility is important. 

How many hours do you work in a week?

45-50 hours. 

What is your salary?

After 25 years of work, I am at the level of senior management and a civil servant grade 15.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable?

I enjoy every aspect of my job. 

What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most?

I like being able to telecommute for a portion of my time.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?

Creating partnerships. 

How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job?

Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. I am learning to balance work vs. life every day. 

How family-friendly is your current position?

Very family friendly. 

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?

I am working on it. It is a continuous journey that needs constant nurturing. If you do not pay attention, your job could easily take over your life. But yet again, some of us may like that!

There is a worry among those considering careers outside of astronomy or academia that you can't "go back" and/or that you feel that you betrayed advisors, friends, colleagues. Have you felt this way?

I think obstacles are as big as we permit them to be.

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

I love the Arts, any aspect or medium. 

Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?

Yes, Doris.Daou [at] nasa.gov