For the most part I try to keep this blog focused on computing, meaning either my teaching, research, or service or broader articles or topics from the field. But today I have to stretch things to include something about astrophysics.
NPR had a story today about Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the discoverer of pulsars. As the article notes the discovery earned her thesis advisor, who initially dismissed her findings, the Nobel Prize in 1974. She was excluded from that prize, something that she is remarkably sanguine about. Instead the article reports that she was just given a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which carries an award of $3 million dollars. That alone would make the story worth reading, but the reason I’m writing about it are the things Bell Burnell says in the article.
First, she says that she made the pulsar discovery because she had imposter syndrome: she was so worried about being kicked out of Cambridge that she worked harder than anyone. She also says that she’s donating the $3 million to the U.K.’s Institute of Physics to fund graduate scholarships for people from under-represented groups to study physics. She also has an amazing attitude about being excluded from the Nobel Prize: “If you get a Nobel prize you have this fantastic week and then nobody gives you anything else. If you don’t get a Nobel prize you get everything that moves. Almost every year there’s been some sort of party because I’ve got another award. That’s much more fun.” Her admission about imposter syndrome, her funding of scholarships, and her incredibly positive attitude make her one of my new heroes.