siaa_logo_blue Helen Kirk kirk_circle

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Cambridge, MA, USA

Postdoctoral research fellow



She is an Astronomer: How many years since you got your maximum degree?

Helen Kirk: I defended my PhD at the end of the summer of 2009.


SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?

HK: So far, no, I haven't felt that I have faced more difficulties than any other astronomer.  I have, however, been very fortunate to have a very supportive mentors both for my PhD and currently at my postdoc.


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

HK: The CfA is so large that I'm not actually sure!  I suspect that the fraction of women in permanent positions is much less than 50%; it certainly seems to be that way in the star-formation community that belong to. In terms of postdocs, there seems to be a decent fraction of females -- this year, all seven of the new postdocs in star formation are female!


SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?

HK: No!

SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?

HK: If you're really passionate about astronomy, then go for it!  It isn't an easy career path, but at the same time, can be very rewarding. During undergraduate, look out for opportunities to get a feel for what astronomy research is like (e.g., summer research projects with a professor).  The experience will help you figure out what you like (and don't like) to work on, and will also give you skills that will help you when you start graduate school.