Unique Scientist: Tarini Konchady

Time to meet Tarini Konchady (She/her)! Tarini is an astronomer and graduate student at Texas A&M University in the USA studying stars!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a graduate student studying astronomy. I look for special stars called Miras (“mye-ra”, Latin for “wonderful”!) in other galaxies. We can use Miras to measure the distance to the galaxies they live in, and these distances help us understand how the Universe is expanding.

What made you want to become a scientist?
Jurassic Park got me all riled up about paleontology! But when I was eight, I got really interested in astronomy because I thought you needed to know astronomy to become an astronaut. And at the time, I wanted to be an astronaut just like Kalpana Chawla. The more I read, the more I wanted to study the beautiful, faraway objects pictured in my books.

“Aside from being one of the few women in my year, I also felt like I was the only person who didn’t really want to pursue more intensive STEM classes outside of physics and astronomy.”

Tarini Konchady

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
When I was in college, I majored in physics. Aside from being one of the few women in my year, I also felt like I was the only person who didn’t really want to pursue more intensive STEM classes outside of physics and astronomy. Instead, I opted for courses in writing, drawing, and photography, which brought me genuine joy. At the same time though, I felt guilty for not going above and beyond to take extra courses in programming or math, and I constantly compared myself to classmates who did. It took me a while to realize that as much as I love astronomy, creative pursuits sustain me in a different way, and that doesn’t make me a worse scientist.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I am a loud and proud yarn crafter! My specialty is crochet (the one with the hook!), I’ve been doing it seriously for about six years. I usually have a couple of ongoing projects to bounce between, currently I’ve got a blanket and a crop sweater in progress. I’m still a novice knitter but I’m working on that!

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I wish there was more room and recognition for the non-research things that scientists do, like outreach and teaching. It’s so easy to get cynical about doing anything outside of research, and I don’t want it to be that way.

“I wish there was more room and recognition for the non-research things that scientists do […]”

Tarini Konchady

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My family. My parents bought me my first astronomy books when I was interested in the subject and encouraged me to keep an open mind when it came to science. One of my most vivid memories is from when I was in elementary school and my dad took me a talk on the Big Bang at the Indian Institute of Science. I’m pursuing a career that no one in my family has before, and they trust and support me unconditionally.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I’m a pretty new driver, but I managed to drive my aunt and cousin from lunch to Costco without an accident!

#WomenInSTEM, #BrownInSTEM

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