Fashioning the Future With: Julie Seven Sage
We have a STEAM star on the blog today—and she's as bright as the sun. Why all the stellar references? It's because we interviewed none other than #SciComm luminary Julie Seven Sage, the fourteen-year-old host of Supernova Style Science News and one of four founding officers of the brilliant new organization the STEAM Squad. The STEAM Squad is an empowering and supportive group that was created by teenage girls who share an appreciation for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. STEAM Squad members help and encourage each other, and we think that's cooler than 2.7 Kelvin (roughly the temperature of space)!
Speaking of fun science facts, if you want to know what's going on in our little corner of the cosmos, just look to Julie Seven Sage. In fact, she's got a beat on what's going on in the farther reaches of the cosmos, too, and she's already impressed Neil deGrasse Tyson with her knowledge!
In addition to being a compelling onscreen personality and STEAM Squad officer, Julie has also contributed to The Planetary Society's blog, mentored kids through Girls Who Code, sent experiments to space (read on to find out what!), Trained Like a Martian, and so much more. Unlike supernovae, however, there's no chance of Julie Seven Sage fading out any time soon; she's a star on the rise!
Julie was kind enough to answer our pressing questions about her creative process for Supernova Style Science News episodes, what it's like to be part of the STEAM Squad, her sage advice to other kids who want to get into STEAM, and—because we are the Style Engineers Worldwide—all about her spectacular science shirt collection.
When did you first know that you loved space?
I first knew that I loved space when I was 6 years old. My family has always been a very science-oriented family. One day, I walked up to my dad and proclaimed, “I know what I want to do when I grow up!” My dad then asked me what it was. I responded with it having to deal with space. He then asked me if I wanted to be an astronaut, I said no because it’s too dangerous. Next, he asked me if I wanted to be an astronomer. I said no because I didn’t just want to look at the stars.
So, he asked specifically what I wanted to do in space. I said that I want to know how all the stars move and I want to know how everything works—like black holes. And I want to know all the calculations behind the universe. He asked if I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I asked what that was, and he gave Stephen Hawking and Neil DeGrasse Tyson as examples. I automatically agreed.
What attracts you to astrophysics?
There are many reasons why I love astrophysics. One is the mysteriousness of it all. There are deep and far out regions that we barely even know anything about and most of what we “know” are theories. There are also all of the amazing objects in our universe that we can study like black holes, rogue planets, and possible ecosystems on planets outside of our solar system. It’s just all so fascinating.
What was the inspiration for your show Supernova Style Science News?
The beginning of my news show is a very interesting and unpredictable story. In 1st grade, I constantly interrupted my teacher with interesting facts or correcting her about what she was saying. Even though I interrupted her with these facts she liked hearing the facts, but obviously not the interruptions. The other kids in the class also enjoyed the facts. So, she made a deal with me, if I didn’t interrupt her during class, at the end of the day I could share any science fact that I wanted. This became known as Julie’s Fun Facts. After that I knew that I wanted to keep sharing facts like that with everyone.
Speaking of style, you have an awesome/impressive collection of science-themed shirts. Which one is your favorite and why? And, by the way, how many science-themed shirts do you have?
Well, I’m pretty lucky because I haven’t grown much so I have years’ worth of science shirts. My favorite shirt would have to be the one that I wore when I met Neil DeGrasse Tyson because well, one, he liked my shirt, and two, I was wearing it when I met him and it’s one of my favorite photos that I have.
In total, I have 87 science shirts. 55 of those are space, 12 are biology, 4 are math, 3 are coding, 2 are in chemistry, and 11 of them don’t fit in any of those categories. I really need more chemistry shirts.
What is your process like for coming up with topics for the videos?
Usually the first step is my dad or I will find a very interesting science article and share it with the other. A couple times, people would tell me about studies before they were published and then send me the link to the paper. I also cover events that are really cool and programs that I have participated in. Then I’ll start to research more about the study, event, or program. For studies, I specifically look for the official paper, so I can read it and make sure that I understand the study completely. If I cannot understand the study, I will not cover it. Next, I write a script about the topic and my parents help me edit it if it needs any editing.
Can you talk a bit about your upcoming maker show?
The name of my new maker show is THE STEAM SHOP. On my show, I’m going to be showing viewers a multitude of things. I’m going to be showing how to build simple designs all the way up to very complex builds. I’ll also be doing reviews of different kits and experiments. As well, I’ll be building my lab throughout the series and show everyone how they can build their own lab equipment.
What is your favorite thing about being an officer of the STEAM Squad?
There are so many amazing things with being an officer and even being in the squad, which makes this a really hard question. My favorite thing about being an officer would be running a group of amazing girls (who are my friends) with my best friends and being able to invite even more amazing friends to our group. But just to be a member of the STEAM Squad, to have a community of like-minded science kids who go through the same things we go through, that support has helped a lot of us
Cubes in Space is a really cool program that challenges kids around the world to build experiments through NASA to actually send into space for testing. What was it like to have your experiments chosen and actually launched on a NASA sounding rocket?
It was absolutely amazing! Being able to watch my experiment launch into the air, into the atmosphere, and know that I’m going to get real data from a space environment, it’s just awesome. It’s so hard to put the feeling into words because I had a flood of emotions come over me like excitement, happiness, and anticipation. Of course, I was slightly worried that something could go wrong with the rocket during launch or during retrieval. But then when I got my experiment back, I couldn’t be happier.
What scientists (current or throughout history) inspire you?
There have been many scientists that have inspired me, and there’s so many it’s impossible to list them all. Past scientists who have inspired me are: Stephen Hawking, Nikola Tesla, Cecilia Payne, Annie Cannon, Henrietta Levitt, Williamina Fleming, Carl Sagan, Vera Rubin, Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, and Hedy Lamarr.
For current scientists, they are: Tracy Fanara, Tamara Robertson, Tanya Harrison, Jonathan McDowell, James Guillochon, Ariel Ekblaw, Devora Najjar, Avery Normandin, Tal Achituv, Esra Bulbul, Rainer Weiss, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Javed Ahmed, Rajashree Khalap, Darren Naish, Eden Girma, Payton Barnwell, all of my friends in the STEAM Squad, and all of my friends who are in STEAM.
I could go on forever listing inspiring scientists alive today. Every scientist who is trying to increase the world’s knowledge, working towards their passion, and trying to inspire others, have all inspired me and are inspiring to other people.
What is your ideal career path?
I don’t know if I have an ideal career path. There are two different careers that I want to do which are astrophysics and science communication. Mostly what I’m doing is taking the opportunities that are coming my way from any field of science and rolling with it. I’m focusing on getting good grades since those are important as well. Staying in contact with real-life scientists helps because I can learn a lot from them. Also, if I can get internships, that would be extremely helpful because I'd gain experience. For college, I’m planning on going to a good college that has a really good physics/astronomy/astrophysics department. I would love to go to both MIT and Harvard at some point. I would really love to get my PhD at Harvard. But if it changes, that’s okay. Things change as you go through life and you just have to change with it.
Do you want to go into space yourself? If so: Would you rather go to the moon or Mars?
I would find it cool to go into space, but I’d rather do it when we decrease the risk of going. I have this joke that I’ll be the 301st person to go to Mars. For deciding between the moon or Mars, I would have to go with the moon because I would love to see the Earth rise and set on the horizon. That would just look so cool!
Are there any upcoming celestial events we should know about?
There are quite a few upcoming celestial events this year and a few years in the future that you should know about. On October 23rd, Uranus is at its opposition which means that it is as close as it can be to Earth, and because of that it will be much brighter. November 6th and December 15th are the best times to look at Mercury, because it’s at the highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. That’s all of the cool events happening this year that I know about. For in the far future, in 2024 there will be another solar eclipse that will be going over the US. That will be super cool, and I totally recommend trying to watch it.
What advice do you have for girls your age (and younger) who want to get into STEAM?
The advice that I have is that, “Even if you’re the first, be proud that you are a leader”. Many people feel discouraged when they go into something and they’re the only person that are like them. But, that means that they are a leader because they are showing that people like them can do it too and are inspiring those kinds of people. And that is an amazing thing to be. If you’re not the only one, then my advice would be, “Work hard, even if you fail, because failure is part of the scientific process”. Failure can be hard for anyone to accept, I even have troubles with it at times. But failure is necessary for people to learn things because without failure, you can’t improve. And improving yourself is one of the best things you can do.
Do you have any favorite scientist characters in books/movies/other art forms?
I do have a few favorite scientist characters. For comics, my favorite characters are Nadia in Unstoppable Wasp and Lunella in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. In books, my favorite definitely is Ada Lace, which is a children’s book series written by Emily Calandrelli. On TV, my favorite scientist is Jordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. My favorite out of all of these characters would be Nadia because I relate to her deeply.
If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?
Well, earlier this year I actually designed a superhero character for the NSF Gen Nano competition where I tied for second place in the middle school division who had an entire suit that was filled with technology! So, my go-to would probably be her suit. But if I had to choose something simpler, I would probably choose something like a watch that had multiple configurations like a regular watch, a holographic HUD display, and maybe even a way to communicate with people like a walkie talkie.