Scholarship Award Alumni - Kristina Kaldon


Kristina Kaldon

Pennsylvania State University
Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics
Bachelor of Science - 2015
2014 USRA Scholarship Winner

When she was young, teaching was Kristina's dream career. In high school, Kristina was inspired to study astronomy and physics by her physics teacher. She's happy teaching is still her dream career and as a kid never could have imagined she would want to teach astronomy.

As an undergraduate, she worked on searching for brown dwarf companions to known white dwarf stars using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. The highlight of her college years was her summer experience at Arecibo Observatory, where she analyzed data from rotating radio transits and searched for fast radio bursts. She presented this project at the January 2015 meeting of the American Astronomical Society. She feels blessed to have had supportive advisors at both Penn State and Arecibo. She says her research advisors "taught me how to read and write scientific papers, have shown me the importance of failing and errors, and inspired me to continue working when I am frustrated." Her research experience helped her decide what (and what not) to do. While at Penn State, she also sparked an astronomy interest in young students by working with the astronomy outreach department, specifically taking students on a 3D tour of Mars through Spirit and Opportunity Rovers' images.

After graduating from Penn State, Kristina went to work in the Space Systems and Technology Division at MIT Lincoln Lab. She tracks objects in orbit around the earth, and classifies them according to satellite type or as space debris. She's using this time to gain experience in industry while determining her next career step. This summer, she is running a "Science on Saturday" outreach event for children in grades 3-6 so they can participate in hands-on science demonstrations.

Her advice to students is "to have conversations with your advisors, professors, and mentors. Tell them your career goals, what interests you, what you like about research or classes, your anxieties for the future, and what you dislike. Also, ask them about themselves! Get to know the path they took to get where they are and learn about other colleagues of theirs. In scholarship applications, don't be to boast about your work; if you were part of something awesome, make it known and be passionate about it."