Career Profiles: Parshati Patel

Questions about your career and its development

What is your name?

Parshati Patel

Where do you work and what is your role/job title?

I am an Astrophysicist turned Science Communicator. I work as an Educational Outreach and Communications Specialist at Western University’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

My job sometimes requires me to work evenings and weekends. However, I enjoy my work so I don’t mind to occasionally work outside business hours. My job is flexible since it revolves around events and engagement and allows me to pursue other hobbies and the kind of lifestyle I want.

Questions about your current Job

How did you go about getting your current job?

During my Masters and PhD, I started volunteering for the Public Education and Outreach Program. I eventually ended up getting teaching assistantships in multiple outreach programs during my graduate studies. I built my communications skills, experience and resume through the paid and volunteer opportunities throughout those years. My current position opened up when I graduated and the years of experience having worked in the field of science communication, education and outreach landed me my current job as Educational Outreach and Communications Specialist.

Describe a typical day

The most interesting aspect of this job is that there isn’t a typical day. Some days I am in the office preparing for the events while the other days I am leading the programs. We do variety of events and programs including K-12 classroom workshops, public events, after school and summer programs, educator training workshops as well as graduate student training workshops.

In addition to the above, my role allows me to engage with media and I am often called in to comment on the latest space related news. As communications is part of my portfolio, my day starts and end with checking our social media channels as well as planning, scheduling and posting on social media. A large part of my job also involves development of programs and workshops, these are my key aspects and I generally work on these when I am not in preparing and facilitating events. Certain times of the year, I am also working on and applying for multiple grants to fund education and outreach efforts


What’s the coolest part of your job?

Interacting with the students and the members of the public!

Are there any elements of your job that you dislike?

I wouldn’t there is any elements I dislike, I do find doing budgets for program not as much fun as developing and leading workshops or events; interacting with the public or media.

Questions about education and training

What subjects did you take in school/college and how have these influenced your career path?

Since I work in the field of Space Science and Technology and outreach and communications related to that field, my astronomy courses and my planetary science and space exploration courses came in handy for my current career in Science Communication. They gave me the basis to understand and translate the research to something that would be appealing to the public. A lot of my skills that I currently use for Science Communication were acquired through experience.

Did you participate in any extra-curricular projects and if yes, did this affect your career choice?

I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my extra-curricular projects and volunteer work. During my undergraduate degree, I had an opportunity to volunteer and work with the student run astronomy club. This was my early start into the field of science communication and outreach. In addition when I joined my graduate program, there was a volunteer opportunity available to help with a space themed radio show. I was able to graduate to producing the radio months later and even open an opportunity for me to make it part of my Teaching Assistantship. While for the rest of my time in graduate school involved me working in various outreach programs through teaching assistantships, I did volunteer quite often with the programs during the summer or during breaks. The experience and joy that science communication offered me allowed me to choose Science Communication as my career after my PhD.

Questions about yourself

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

There are couple particular moments I always look back on:

One of the students in our summer program has attended the program ever since it was established in 2016. After the third year, she reached out to me to ask if there were any opportunities for her to be involved in research. In the summer of 2019, the student was part of our student run research program and through my interactions with her I learnt that she was inspired to study space and plans to pursue it in her undergraduate degree. This was the program I developed and I felt that the program did its job of engaging and inspiring the next generation of space scientists and engineers.

Another one I will treasure is from our Girls and Women in Space night. I co-founded and lead this particular annual event to bring role models and exciting research conducted by girls, women and non-binary researchers to the girls and women of our city. One of the parents came to me after and mentioned how excited her teenage daughter is to see so many amazing researchers in a position she aims to be someday. The number of people who attended the event had doubled in just one year.

Moments like these make me feel that I am making a difference in lives of students who want to engage and pursue space.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would be lead a national or international Space STEM outreach program.

Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice

What advice would you give to someone considering this job? Are there important personal characteristics, or good work experience they can undertake for example.

My advice would be practise and try different aspects of Science Communication. Another key skills you will require in this field (at least what helped me) is to observe others and try it yourself! Look at the way they approach students or talk to the public and learn the techniques that way. If you enjoy writing, try writing articles or blog posts about whatever interests you in space. If you are interested in speaking opportunities, try joining an organization to develop and lead presentations and workshops. If you enjoying developing videos and sharing on social media, give it a try on your personal social media profile. The field of science communications has skills that can developed either my going to school for it (i.e. getting a degree in science communication) or by just trying them out, analyse, incorporate anything that did not work well and repeat!