Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin is the reason I’m writing this essay.
With her legacy woven into the very stars she studied, she has influenced and inspired me to be the best at what I do.Most people I’ve interacted with, know of my fascination with Cecilia Payne, one of the brightest minds in the field of astronomy and astrophysics. Her story is of perseverance, intellect, and defying gender norms. Getting acquainted with her work was when I decided to pursue astrophysics.Astrophysics is an intricate science, soliloquizing the mysteries of the universe, giving answers to questions we didn’t think to ask. Seeing a woman deplored for her research yet continue to persevere and succeed in establishing the chemical homogeneity of the universe made me want to step up, study the cosmos, and honor her memory.
Apart from academia, Cecilia Payne influenced me to get actively involved in the fight against sexism. A female scientist in the 20th century, lacking the recognition she deserved. That didn’t stop her from becoming the first female professor at Harvard. In present day, with arguably less gender bias present, she has taught me to be unapologetic of who I am, be it geeking out about science or just carrying on with my day.As a person who’s lived in India her whole life, American universities were merely a dream. I was hesitant to apply and write the essays but then….HEY! Cecilia Payne got a research grant at an Ivy. That inspired me to continue (day?) dreaming.
As a family we moved frequently across the country. Like clockwork, every three years or so, we’d seal the dusty crates and move. Changing schools, cities, and cultures. The repetitive motion was tiring me out when I recalled Cecilia Payne’s struggle. With no opportunities for a female researcher in the UK, she moved to America with a fellowship under her belt. From then, I ceased viewing our frequent shifting as a nuisance, and more of an opportunity.
An opportunity to grow and appreciate the unique experiences each culture provided.Her thesis on the chemical composition of stars revolutionized the field of astronomy and astrophysics, inspiring many young like myself to study the universe beyond. She revealed that nothing compared to “the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something.” To be the turning point in the history of discovery is my ardent desire.
To look beyond words, think past physical limitations, and explore the unexplained.