Kim Arcand, a renowned local scientist who works for NASA, recently spoke at the Southern New England American Heart Association’s first STEM Goes Red Event in Providence, Rhode Island. Here is what she had to say about the experience, in her own words.
Recently, I was invited to speak at the Southern New England American Heart Association event STEM Goes Red. This event hosted girls from local middle schools for a half day of talks, hands-on activities and discussion groups related to topics in STEM and leadership. I have always admired the American Heart Association, so it was an easy answer for me to agree to spend a beautiful Saturday morning at the new Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in Providence, RI. As heart disease has left a bit of a trail through my family tree, and as I have a short-circuit in my own heart, heart health and research is something near and dear…to my heart.
At the event, I spoke on my work as Visualization and emerging technology lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory at the Center for Astrophysics – an organization I have been incredibly fortunate to be a part of. This year Chandra celebrates 20 years of operation in space, an incredible feat for a telescope that goes about a third of the way to the Moon. Part of my work is to help translate the information from Chandra of things like exploded stars, areas around black holes or merging galaxies into various forms, from images to time-lapse movies to 3D models and Virtual reality applications – we are even working on a 3D holographic application of an exploded star.
It was a complete joy then, to learn from another team that was present at the event. This group of researchers had developed a beautiful 3D/holographic virtual model of the human heart, called the Living Heart Project. The project was, in part, inspired by heart issues in the project lead’s own family. Dr. Steve Levine is the Founder/Executive Director of the Living Heart Project and is Sr. Director of Life Sciences for the leading 3D scientific software company, Dassault Systèmes. Dr. Levine gave me a demonstration through this “living (modeled) heart,” and I was head over heels for it. The holographic heart was inspiring, educational, helpful, and beautiful (I even got to explore the electrical system of the heart which is where some of my own admittedly minor heart issues stem from).
Additionally, a good friend of mine, Erica Davies, from Trilix, was there to run a working breakout session on core values and leadership. It is such an inspiration to see people like Erica volunteering time to talk about being a woman in STEM, helping improve confidence in this group of younger women, and demonstrating how they put their own hearts into building a community.
Some STEM researchers work on the mysteries of the Universe. Some might work on the (admittedly more puzzling to me!) mysteries of the inner Universe, of the human body. But I hope we can all continue to work to add heart to each of the Universes humans are lucky enough to access.