In 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) observed the first detection of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of spacetime created by the cataclysmic collision of two black holes. The Syracuse University Gravitational Wave Group played a leading role in this…
Women in Science Day Spotlight: Christa Kelleher
Christa Kelleher remembers having a love for drawing and art when she was a kid. As a college student, she began to fold science and engineering into her area of focus, intertwining her creative and experimental interests. Today as a scientist, she has a particular interest in scientific visualization and how researchers can effectively explain what they’re doing through graphs, maps and figures.
“I have found communication, especially with figures, to be an incredible way to be creative as a scientist, which I think is really fun,” says Kelleher.
Kelleher’s work centers around water. Working as an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and a Faculty Fellow with the Syracuse Center of Excellence, her research is aimed at disentangling how water gets from the sky into the ground and makes its way to streams and rivers. Throughout her career, she says it’s been important to create connections with other women scientists and students. She also values the mentorship opportunities she’s received from other women researchers at the University.
Getting more women and girls into fields like hydrology is one of the primary goals of the internationally recognized Day of Women and Girls in Science. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the date of Feb. 11 as an annual reminder to promote full and equal access for women and girls around the globe to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The day continues to gain traction, with posts utilizing the hashtag #WomenInScience every year on Feb, 11 to raise awareness about the need for more diversity and inclusion in the sciences.
“The more diverse and the more inclusive we are, the better we are,” says Kelleher. “We know that research is fueled by diversity and that our students are most fulfilled when they’re in an inclusive environment.”
The COVID-19 health crisis has put a spotlight on the role of scientists and researchers. Kelleher says diversity and inclusion within STEM fields and having representation of women and under-represented groups in the classroom and in labs is more important now than ever.
“With this year in particular, we’re seeing the power of science. We’re seeing the incredible interest that people have in science and how it impacts our day to day lives,” says Kelleher. “We are at a time, both in terms of the pandemic and climate change, where we as scientists really need to make an effort to make sure the work that we do is accessible to everybody.”
Professor Christa Kelleher also wrote the opinion article, COVID Could Undo the Progress We Celebrate on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, for Newsweek.