Summer Ash

Women in STEM
Summer Ash

Specialty: Astrophysics

Major Contributions:

STEAM Education Manager, National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Former In-house astrophysicist, Rachel Maddow Show

Former Director of Outreach, Columbia University Dept. of Astronomy

Co-Founder of Startorialist

Image Via LinkedIn

As the STEAM Education Manager for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Summer Ash is a self-professed space cadet.  Starting out earning her a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 1998 she was a mass properties engineer on the X-34 program at Orbital Sciences. 

Attending International Space University, she earned a master’s in space science in 2002 and then studied astrophysics at Cambridge University where her research focused on the evolution of radio galaxies. As part of the Oxbridge Academic Programs, she began designing and implementing astronomy and math & nature summer courses for high school students from around the world. In 2008 she began teaching Frontiers of Science, a freshman level course introducing scientific habits and critical thinking skills at Columbia University.  Three years later she transitioned to two new positions at the university, first as the Assistant Director of the Bridge to PhD program. She left that position in July of 2015 to pursue work in science communication. And secondly as the Director of Outreach for the Department of Astronomy until 2019.

In her work as a science communicator, Ash has written for Scientific American, Slate, Nautilus, and Disney Junior and served as the in-house astrophysicist for the Rachel Maddow Show. And if you are looking for the best of science fashion check out Startorialist, a blog connecting spacey fashion and scientists that she and fellow astronomer Emily Rice co-founded and together turned into an online shopping destination for space and science theme products.

Ever the scientist, when she learned she would need heart surgery in 2012 she began sharing her experience with the world via her blog Defective Heart Girl Problems. Not only does she explain the medical science behind her surgery and recovery, but she is also open about her personal journey through this process. She even had her surgeons take pictures of her heart during her procedure and has posted them for the world to learn from.

Ash enjoys being able to spread her love of space with anyone willing to listen – in her words she harnesses her powers for science communication to “bring the universe down to earth to help those who want to reach for the stars.”

Written by Angela Goad


Columbia Astronomy Public Outreach

Summer Ash

Science Forward – Astronomy

This Astrophysicist Blogged Her Open-Heart Surgery

LinkedIn: Summer Ash

Wikipedia: Orbital Sciences X-34

Defective Heart Girl Problems

See Also:

Twitter @Summer_Ash

Science in the neighborhood: How to make really good coffee

The Heartbeat (Radiolab)

National Radio Astronomy Observatory