Fashioning the Future With: Emily Calandrelli
It's a celebrity sighting here at SEW! We've got MIT-educated aerospace engineer and sought-after science communicator Emily Calandrelli, a.k.a The Space Gal, on the blog. Not only is Emily a scientist and TV host, but she's also a speaker, an author, a space reporter, and an advocate for women in STEM. We love everything about Emily and her stellar career, and square-dancing space veggies, we are over the moon to share her interview with you today.
Emily is the force behind the wildly popular Ada Lace book series that follow the adventures of an eight-year-old inventor. There are currently four books in the series (tip: they make great holiday gifts!) with a fifth coming out in February.
Emily is also the host and executive producer of FOX's Xploration Outer Space, a Saturday morning show that takes you on all kinds of space-related adventures. But wait, that's not all! You can also watch Emily on Netflix's Bill Nye Saves the World where she appears as a special correspondent.
Emily has been featured in Cosmo, Wired, The Boston Globe, and many more prestigious outlets. Adweek even named Emily as part of their Creative 100 in the "Celebrities and Influencers Raising the Bar for Creativity in 2017." Emily raises the bar, indeed, to outer space!
So, get ready to learn more about STEM advocate and host extraordinaire Emily Calandrelli as she answers our questions about SciComm and space, what it's like to be a TV host, what she loves most about sharing her rad books with the world, and more!
When did you first discover your love of space?
When I entered college, I wasn’t sure which type of Engineering to choose — until I discovered that those who studied Aerospace Engineering could take a class to fly on the Vomit Comet. I really wanted to fly on the Vomit Comet…so I chose Aerospace as my field. From there, the excitement of the space industry took over.
What inspired your awesome Ada Lace book series?
I wanted to create a book that I wished that I had when I was little: A book about adventure and tech that featured a girl as the lead.
What have you enjoyed most about sharing your Ada Lace books with young readers?
Meeting kids who dress up like Ada or simply astronauts at my book signings. Seeing first-hand how a book can inspire a kid to obsess about space and science, at least for a little while, is heart warming.
What was the transition like to go from scientist to science communicator?
It takes a different set of skills, that’s for sure. Knowing the science is only half the battle of being a science communicator. There was a learning curve — figuring out how to ~act natural~ on television, finding STEM projects that translate well for a TV audience, becoming a professional public speaker — it took thousands of hours of practice (and many failed attempts along the way!)
What challenges have you had to overcome in your career as a female scientist and TV host?
Science TV hosting is a male dominated field. So I went from one male dominated field to another. You encounter some of the same issues — people underestimating your intelligence, or assuming I’m just a “talking head.” One female scientist I interviewed asked me, “How’d you go from MIT to being a talking head?” after I had just completed an interview with her that I wrote myself for a TV show that I was the Executive Producer of.
Xploration Outer Space is such a cool show. Can you talk a little about what it’s like to be the host and executive producer of such a fun and influential show?
It’s an incredible opportunity. I love seeing the different sides of television production and I’m lucky to work with talented people who make everything come together. As an aerospace engineer, I love being able to ask some of the smartest people in this industry any question I like.
What was your favorite part about being a correspondent for Bill Nye Saves the World?
Having the opportunity to watch Bill Nye be a master of his craft. He’s a great comedian and performer, and he knows his science — to watch those skillsets swirl together is pure magic.
What drives you as a STEM advocate and science communicator?
We live in an increasingly technological society and it’s important that citizens of every country are aware of how science and technology are impacting them and their family’s lives. It’s also fun to learn about science! It’s the language of nature. Being able to understand why the sky is blue and how planes are able to fly – how cool is that?
You travel all over the globe for your work. Do you have any particular place or adventure that stands out in your mind?
My favorite vacation spot is the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Can’t beat the views, food, and the wine! 😊
What advice do you have for girls (middle and high school) who want to go into STEM or into SciComm?
Practice SciComm every chance you get. It takes a long time to find the best way to communicate something — and you’ll need to use different strategies for different people. You need to start building your speaking and writing skills. And if you want to be a YouTuber you’ll also need to practice your videography and editing skills. The people who you follow who are famous at this stuff — they’ve been doing it for years! Everything takes practice.
Who are some of your favorite scientists and science communicators (historical or present day)?
I’m a fan of the female computers who helped NASA reach the moon (like the ones in Hidden Figures!) and literally any woman in history who did STEM when the entire world was telling her it wasn’t for women. Today, I am inspired by women like Dianna Cowern, Simone Giertz, Vanessa Hill, Anna Rothschild, Emily Graslie, Alie Ward and so many more women who are combining their love of STEM with creativity and creating content that people love.
What activities/hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?
Traveling (when I’m not traveling for work, I love traveling for fun!), and reading trashy thriller novels.
When, realistically, do you think humans will land on Mars?
Early 2030’s hopefully?
Do you have any favorite fictional scientist characters in books/movies/other art forms?
Hermione Granger — can I consider her a scientist?
If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?
Google Translate earpiece — understand every language in the world!