(Interview and write-up by Kyle Rogers)
Dr. Sara Walker, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, grew up in Coventry, Connecticut. She was always interested in science but didn’t know it. During her time at community college, Sara had a professor whose enthusiasm for physics had her captivated with the subject. “It was amazing that you could have a deep, mathematical understanding of the world,” she said. After community college, Sara attended Florida tech where she studied physics as an undergraduate. Although she was involved in experimental physics at the time, she was more passionate about theory and “understanding things at a fundamental level.”
Sara studied cosmology at Dartmouth College for graduate school. She described the college as having diverse faculty and students but mentioned that her undergraduate alma mater had just hired their first female faculty member when she graduated. “For my own career, I didn’t think it would be a problem,” she said, regarding women in S.T.E.M. fields. “You don’t see that there were problems until looking back and realize it was a battle.” Professor Walker said that part of the reason she might have been successful was the supportive places she’s been in her career. “SESE is really awesome for raising awareness and support.” As far as helping the next generation of women in S.T.E.M., she said, “Power is in the awareness and discussion.”
Professor Walker is also the deputy director of ASU’s BEYOND Center. Her research focuses on the emergence of life, the structure of information hierarchies in biological systems, astrobiological searches for life elsewhere in the cosmos, the dynamics of underlying major evolutionary transitions, cancer biology, quantum mechanics and space exploration.