Have you ever wondered about the astronomy in places like Middle Earth and Hogwarts? If so Dr. Kristine Larsen at Central Connecticut State University has lots of great information to share with you. As part of her outreach to try to bring more people to the sciences she teaches courses as part of CCSU’s First Year Experience that introduce scientific methodologies to non-science majors. She is a Solar System Ambassador for NASA/JPL, and has participated for ten years in the Adopt-A-Physicist Program connecting with high school students and giving them a chance to interact with a real life physicist.
Larsen authored a biography of physicist Stephen Hawking, co-authored a book examining the works of popular fantasy author Neil Gaiman, been an editor on a book focused on the world of the television series Doctor Who, and has written over thirty book chapters on various topics linking science and popular culture. Many of these writings look at the astronomical motifs and motivations in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien including journal articles and conference presentations aimed at guiding teachers efforts to connect the world of Middle Earth to the science classroom.
At CCSU she has taught varying courses ranging from General Relativity to Exoplanets and Astrobiology. Some of her other research includes the societal impact of pseudoscience, the depictions of science and scientist in popular media, history of women in science, and variable star classification.
For her exceptional leadership in promoting women’s participation and interest in STEM she was the 2014 recipient of the Petit Family Foundation Women in Science Leadership Award given by the Connecticut Science Center.
As vocal advocate for women in STEM fields, Dr. Larsen says, “Until women truly represent equal numbers with men in exploring the cosmos in observatory domes, engineering fusion reactor domes, searching for oil in salt domes, and making science policy in the Capitol dome, we must all, men and women alike, work tirelessly to mentor each and every young woman in this country to understand that a piece of the sky awaits her–if she just reaches her mind upward.”
Written by Angela Goad