Olivia Wilkins

Annapolis, MD, US
Field of Work 
Astronomy and Space Science
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Job Title or "Student" 
NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Ph.D., Chemistry
Education Level 
Profile Biography 
Hey there! My name is Dr. Olivia Wilkins, and I am an astrochemist and artist. Currently, I work in a laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. In the lab, I make pretend space ice and shine ultraviolet (UV) light on it to simulate what happens when a comet is affected by solar radiation as it goes around the Sun or to dust particles in interstellar space around a growing baby star. I also use radio telescopes, which look like giant satellite dishes, to study the chemicals out in space. Using both of these types of research, I hope to understand how our solar system, including life as we know it, evolved from simple chemicals in interstellar space before our Sun was born.

In addition to science, I enjoy writing and creating art. I like to make science-inspired art in a variety of ways, whether it is painting, drawing with colored pencil, digital illustration on my Surface Pro 3, embroidery, or wood-burning. I even wrote and illustrated a book about astrochemistry for the American Chemical Society, which is a professional organization for chemists.

I grew up in south-central Pennsylvania and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry and Mathematics from Dickinson College, a small college in Pennsylvania. I never took an astronomy course in college, but I spent summers as a student researcher at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, which piqued my interest in radio astronomy and, more specifically, astrochemistry. After graduating in 2015, I spent a year in Germany as a Fulbright Research Fellow. There, I did laboratory astrophysics research. I also had moved to Germany with my new spouse, Alex, and he and I had a baby named Guenther while we lived there. After that, we moved to southern California so I could earn my Ph.D. in Chemistry at Caltech (more formally, the California Institute of Technology). Now, we live in Annapolis, Maryland. We love to travel to different countries and to national parks. We also enjoy spending time as a family playing Minecraft or hanging out at coffee shops.
Writing/blogging, Pets, Poetry, Video games, Travel, Other
Race & Ethnicity 
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, Field trip participation, In-school visit, Job shadow, Online role model, Summer camp visit
My Experience 
I am a new Role Model.
Evenings, Weekdays
Career exploration activities, Identifying other role models, Online Mentoring (email or Skype)
Program Affiliation 
Other Interests 
Arts and crafts

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