This Scientist’s Memoir Charts Her Journey From Acting To Astrobiology

In her new memoir, astrobiologist Dr. Aomawa Shields describes how a quest for life in the cosmos helped her find meaning on Earth.

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Dr. Aomawa Shields. Credit: © Steven Meckler

One of the biggest, most intriguing questions in the world is quite simple: Are we alone in this universe? Astronomer and astrobiologist Dr. Aomawa Shields looks for signs of life in outer space by analyzing the climate and habitability of small exoplanets far beyond our solar system.

Shields’ path to science was a winding one. Through childhood and into her adult years, she toggled between two loves: acting and space. In her new memoir Life On Other Planets: A Memoir of Finding My Place in the Universe, she describes her search for signs of life in the cosmos and her quest to build a meaningful life here on Earth. She charts her life story from childhood to astronomy to acting and back to science—and what she’s learned about herself and the universe along the way.

Guest host Swapna Krishna talks with Shields, professor at the University of California Irvine, about her research, the power that comes from combining the arts and science, and what she’s learned from pondering the universe.

Read an excerpt from Life On Other Planets: A Memoir of Finding My Place in the Universe.

Universe of Art is hosted and produced by D. Peterschmidt, who also wrote the music. The original segment was produced by Rasha Aridi. Our show art was illustrated by Abelle Hayford. Support for Science Friday’s science and arts coverage comes from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

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Meet the Writers

About Rasha Aridi

Rasha Aridi is a producer for Science Friday. She loves stories about weird critters, science adventures, and the intersection of science and history.

About D. Peterschmidt

D. Peterschmidt is a producer, host of the podcast Universe of Art, and composes music for Science Friday’s podcasts. Their D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

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