A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman: A Memoir
A radiant and inspiring memoir from one of the world’s leading planetary scientists, detailing her mission (scheduled for August 2022) to the largest known metal-rich asteroid, her own remarkable life story, and the struggle for women’s voices to be heard in scientific fields.
Deep in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, three times farther from the sun than the Earth is, orbits a massive asteroid called (16) Psyche. (16) Psyche is one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt and consists largely of metal. If it could be mined, the entire mass could be worth as much as ten-thousand-quadrillion dollars. But (16) Psyche has the potential to unlock something even more valuable: the story of how planets form, and how our planet formed. Soon we will find out, thanks to the extraordinary work of Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the Principal Investigator of NASA’s $800 million Psyche mission, and the second woman ever to be awarded a major NASA space exploration contract.
The journey that brought her to this place is extraordinary: one part Lab Girl, one part Wild. Amidst a childhood of extraordinary trauma, Elkins-Tanton fell in love with science as a means of healing and consolation. But still she wondered, was forced to wonder: as a woman, was science “for her”? In answering that question, she takes us from the wilds of the Siberian tundra to the furthest reaches of outer space, from the Mayo Clinic, where Elkins-Tanton battled ovarian cancer while writing the Psyche proposal, to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where her team brought that proposal to life.
A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman is a beautifully constructed memoir that explores how a philosophy of life can be built from the tools of scientific inquiry. It teaches us how to approach difficult problems by asking the right questions and actually listening in return—and how we may find meaning through exploring the world around us.
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