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Here she is at a writing workshop during the Fulbright Storytelling Bootcamp at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D. Tuesday, August 25, Are we alone in the universe? For a young woman named Munazza Alam, it sparked an entire career path.

There was no telescope in her backyard, and trips to the museum centered on dinosaur exhibits. As a kid, she preferred playing outside and riding around on her bike to gazing at the stars.

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Field of View Alam, 24, is bright in every sense of the word. She is intelligent and vivacious, and her voice radiates warmth. She can discuss the merits of condensed matter theory as comfortably and clearly as her feelings about her family background.

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Her mother was born in Hyderabad, India, and her father is from Lahore, Pakistan. Adding another dimension to her experience, Alam and her sisters attended Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade. A cousin had done well at the school, and her parents wanted their daughters to get the best education possible, so they enrolled all three girls.

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Catching Fire Her attraction to physics began in high school, thanks to an inspiring teacher with infectious enthusiasm. Her teacher was also inspiring on another level.

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She soon began her first research project on the low-mass celestial objects known as brown dwarfs, and by the end of the year, she had a chance to visit the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. Her current research focuses on a category of large, bright exoplanets called hot Jupiters.

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, she "constructs spectra of planet atmospheres to infer what they are made of and if these planets have clouds and hazes," she says. She follows up these observations using ground-based telescopes in Chile to then figure out how these celestial bodies formed and evolved over time. It requires collaboration to figure out how the pieces fit together. Women Wanted Alam also hopes to inspire other women like her to the field.

The killer second wave

Her program at Harvard has 52 students, and fewer than half of them are women. Despite this disparity, Alam counts several strong female influences in her life, from her mother to her Ph. And though her particular projects may seem esoteric, she insists that astronomy is for everyone. Also called an extrasolar planet.

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You cannot download interactives. Amy Leventer is a geologist who examines the history of Antarctica's climate, and what it means for today. our community of educators and receive the latest information on National Geographic's resources for you and your students. Photograph by Randall Scott. Twitter Facebook Pinterest Google Classroom.

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Article Vocabulary. Media Credits The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another that contains the media credit. Media If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer.

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Text Text on this is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service. Interactives Any interactives on this can only be played while you are visiting our website. Related Resources. Geologist: Dr. Amy Leventer. View Article. Astrophysicist: Phillip Chamberlin.

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