This month’s featured scientist spent her career studying our February theme–the stars and skies! Beth Brown (1969-2008) was one of many NASA scientists that work in fields like astronomy, astrophysics, climate science, and other technologies to help us better understand our galaxy and universe. Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Brown showed an early interest in science and space. She participated in science fairs and credits her love of Star Trek as what influenced her career choice.
She studied astrophysics at Howard University in Washington DC and, because of DC’s proximity to NASA, she was able to do several internships at the Goddard Space Flight Center. This experience helped Brown realize she did not want to be an astronaut but rather wanted to pursue research. After completing her B.S. in 1991, she went on to complete an M.S. (1994) and a Ph.D. (1998) in astronomy from the University of Michigan.
Brown’s research focused on a field of science that looks at things like supernova explosions, gamma-ray bursts, star births, and black holes — all very high energy processes. She continued this research through various positions with the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the National Space Science Data Center and eventually returned to the Goddard Space Flight Center, first as an astrophysicist and eventually the assistant director for science communication and higher education. Among her better-known educational outreach programs at Goddard was the Multiwavelength Milky Way project — an effort to make data on our home galaxy accessible to educators, students, and the general public by showing it in as many wavelengths as possible.
Dr. Brown worked at NASA until her unexpected death in 2008 and is remembered as one of the pioneering scientists in astrophysics at the agency.