siaa_logo_blue Jayanne English english_circle

University of Manitoba

Winnipeg, CANADA

Associate Professor



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

Jayanne English: 15.


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

JE: Unexpectedly I had the typical career path from my Bachelor degree thorough to tenure-track job.  That is, I did a B.Sc., a Ph.D., three 2-yr Post-doctoral Fellowships, and then assistant professor, etc. More men were being hired for tenure-track jobs than women at the time, but by then women were recognized as having merit and our applications were no longer ignored.  I say "unexpectedly" because I was a mature student (more than 10 years older than my peers) with an unusual background.


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

JE: In our astronomy group women have been anomalously over-represented. We began our research group with 2 women astronomers. This had the magic of role-modelling - most of our students and postdocs have been female. This coming January 2010 we will be more balanced with 2 female and 2 male research astrophysicists.


SIAA: What is your family status?

JE: Currently single, no children or other dependents other than 2 cats. Yes, this status happens because I keep moving/travelling to do astronomy. But I'm very happy with my life, focusing on my non-nuclear family and myriad of friends.


SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?

JE: No breaks but I did have another "career" before I started in astronomy.  I am a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design. Since I am currently making art (e.g. working in New Media with a collaborator in Australia) I feel like I have 2 careers.


SIAA: How difficult did you find the return to work?

JE: I interwove my art and science studies as I was making the transfer from OCAD to my bachelor's degree in physics and astronomy. Again it was a duel load. Culturally the shift from art to science was challenging but I eventually made excellent friends in physics and found very supportive professors.


SIAA: How many hours a day do you normally dedicate to work?

JE: At least 9 and very often 13 or more. There is a lot to balance as a prof.  For example, creating lectures takes a lot of time and you have the deadline of the class so you end up focused on these. Then you still want to contribute to papers and need to work with your grad student(s). I certainly have to wait until the summer to do much research.


SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?

JE: More grant funding so I could have more students, up-to-date equipment and travel options. I have the support and enthusiasm of my physicist colleagues, as well as the astronomers, in our department.


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

JE: Go for it! Be stubborn about accomplishing your goals. Don't distract yourself with fantasies of greener pastures in normal jobs.  In spite of the amount of work,you have a lot of control over your time compared to working for a company or business. Professorial/academic work is very creative, has a lot of variety and you are in control of your experiments.  I worked at various "real world" jobs (sales clerk, bookkeeper, store manager, stockbroker assistant, etc.) before settling into astronomy. In none of those jobs did I get to be myself, express myself, learn, grow, change and create like I can as an astronomer. And I didn't have to give up being an art junkie!

About practical things - focus on collaboration instead of competition and enjoy your colleagues.  Not only do projects with colleagues help you succeed in your career, colleagues will become fabulous friends for life.


See more at my profile at
and at my home website at