A Big Island astronomer will appear today on a national TV series aimed at encouraging young girls to consider futures in STEM careers.
Mimi Fuchs, a telescope systems specialist at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope for the East Asian Observatory, will be a guest on today’s episode of the CBS series “Mission Unstoppable,” an educational program hosted by Miranda Cosgrove of “iCarly” fame that presents the stories of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and demonstrates to young viewers that science careers can be fun, too.
“I think people can have a very narrow view of what it means to be a scientist,” Fuchs said. “So it’s great to be a part of this show and teach kids what working in science is like.”
Fuchs said she grew up thinking she wasn’t suited for a science career. Despite being interested in astronomy from a young age — stemming from an elementary school science project about the planet Neptune, which she chose because she liked its blue color — she said she thought she was too outgoing and creatively focused to be satisfied by a career in science.
“The thing is, it’s unbelievable how creative you have to be to study space.” Fuchs said. “All you can see of the stars are just points of light!”
However, Fuchs said a college mentor learned of her interest in astronomy and led her to graduate with a bachelor of science degree in astrophysics from Haverford College in Pennsylvania in 2013.
Fuchs’ appearance on a national television program is just a natural extension of her science work on the Big Island. After moving to the island in 2016 — and, by doing so, fulfilling another lifelong dream of working for the Maunakea Observatories, she said — Fuchs realized that the island’s keiki had similar perceptions of what it means to be a scientist.
“A lot of our keiki don’t realize all the resources they have on the Big Island,” Fuchs said. “But there’s so many scientific resources right here in their back yard. … Sometimes I feel like we can forget that the folk at the observatories are part of the community, too.”
In 2017, Fuchs started a science outreach program called “Aunty Mimi’s Astro-Bash,” a live educational show at Big Island libraries where Fuchs and other scientists present science demonstrations for young audiences. Thanks to partnerships with county libraries, many Astro-Bashes have been held across the island since then, with two scheduled for this month before being ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of her Astro-Bash work, Fuchs learned of “Mission Unstoppable,” which is produced in collaboration with Lyda Hill Philantrophies’ IF/THEN Initiative, which is dedicated to providing young women with more female role models in STEM.
Fuchs was one of 125 applicants selected from a pool of over 700 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and IF/THEN to become an “AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador,” who are given platforms to spread STEM outreach, such as via shows like “Mission Unstoppable.”
Fuchs’ segment on today’s episode of “Mission Unstoppable” will see her bring the same energy of her Astro-Bash programs to an astronomy demonstration exploring why certain stars have certain colors.
As an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador, Fuchs also is involved in a online campaign called #StaySafeForScience, which is intended to generate awareness for best public health practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every time the hashtag is used on Instagram or Twitter, Lyda Hill Philanthropies will donate $1 to COVID-19 relief efforts, up to $250,000.
Fuchs’ episode of “Mission Unstoppable” — “Big Bones, Boss Waves, and Burning Stars” — will air on KGMB-TV at 4 p.m. today. After it is aired, it can be viewed online at https://www.cbs.com/shows/mission-unstoppable/.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.