Getting Rid of Stereotypes

As a young girl, Jennifer Sobeck had the same dream that many young children had — she wanted to be an astronaut. While most children eventually grew out of that phase, Jennifer's love of the heavens never subsided. Her career goals occasionally changed back and forth between medicine and astronomy, but in the end, her path led her back to where she began — as an person dedicated to exploring the stars.

Jennifer's own pursuits are not limited to the day-to-day rigors of being an astronomer; she is also heavily involved in youth education. As a teacher for an organization called Expanding Your Horizons, Jennifer uses science experiments to teach young girls about the opportunities that await them in scientific fields of study. At the last conference, she froze a carrot with liquid nitrogen.

"All those stupid stereotypes about women — I'm trying to get rid of those," she said.

Typically held twice a year on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, the Expanding Your Horizons Conference is host to hundreds of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth- grade girls from around Texas.

"At this point in their lives, society is starting to tell them that they can't do these things," she said.

Currently a graduate student in astronomy at UT-Austin, Jennifer has been down a long road to get to where she is today. After having received her bachelors degree in physics from UT-Austin, she attended a biomedical program at The University of Houston, and then at Rice University. While her passion for medicine is still high, it was eventually outweighed by her love for astronomy.

Today, Jennifer studies the chemical compositions of stars. Much of her work is centered around the idea that you can use the various amounts of different chemical elements within a group of stars to trace the history of our Milky Way galaxy. She says the most exciting moment of her career came when she gave a presentation in Paris about her work.

In April of 2004, Jennifer married her husband Emre, a lawyer from Cypress. As soon as she gets her doctorate, Jennifer plans to find a research job in Europe to be with her husband.

Jennifer Sobeck
Graduate Student, Astronomy, The University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D., Astronomy, University of Texas at Austin
BS, Physics, The University of Texas at Austin