Autumn updates

In September, Dr. Ellie Armstrong and I were invited to The Future of Meetings, hosted by CSIRO, to talk about our conference, Space Science in Context, and the lessons we learned from designing and hosting a virtual conference. We also submitted this talk for the Europlanet Science Congress (abstract). You can watch our video here.

We also wrote about our lessons about virtual conferences with our esteemed colleagues, Dr. Sam Giles, Prof. Chris Jackson, and Dr. Jess Wade, for Physics World – “Redefining the scientific conference to be more inclusive.” Our conference has also been discussed in this great white paper, led by Dr. Beck Strauss, on nonbinary scientists in the planetary science community.

I also chatted with the wonderful TIGER in STEMM about my doctoral work with 3D imagery as part of their excellent TIGER in STEMM Summer Webinar Series in Physics alongside the brilliant Dr. Kwasi Kwakwa; the live recording is here.

In other news, I was delighted to win a prize from The A3 Review! The poem was selected in March for inclusion in this October issue, and went on to win this second-place prize for Issue 13–which looks beautiful and sports so many lovely and timely pieces.

Upcoming Speaking

10/5: The Centre of Outer Space Studies (COSS) is launching through UCL. To kick off this interdisciplinary institute, COSS is hosting a “CATALYST” event featuring a panel of me, Simon Faithfull from UCL Slade School of Fine Art, and UCL Creative Fellow Nicola Baldwin, around the theme “Earth.” Register here.

10/29: The Women in Space Conference was postponed due to COVID-19, but in the meantime the organization is hosting a great speaker series; on October 29th, I’ll be giving a talk reflecting on innovating the conference format in light of Space Science in Context. Read more and watch the previous seminars here, and register here!

askance through time

The sun sets over a canyon on Mars. Lost among the layers in the blue dusk light, a lone astronaut looks out across this dried, 2.5 kilometer-wide riverbed. This image was rendered from the highest resolution 2D and 3D imagery we have of the Mars surface, and shows an ancient river canyon a few kilometers southwest of Curiosity rover. The layers exposed in the canyon tell a complex geological history that we cannot understand from orbital data alone. I wanted to center the idea of incomprehensibility and wonder—of how the most intriguing mysteries of volcanoes and river valleys, glaciers and ice caps on this planet will largely remain unknown to us without an impossible amount of orbital and on-the-ground survey, even when people do explore Mars. We will always be the astronaut looking over immense cliffs in wonder. Still, the sun rises and sets over these landscapes, and time continues.

Here are two snapshots of some of my Mars visualization work-meeting-art. These two scenes show exposed layers in a channel-like feature in Gale Crater, Mars, visualized from 3D terrain data in a 3D vis software called NASA DERT. In geology, layers of rock act as a time capsule, giving clues as to what processed shaped the rock over time. The final work of my Ph.D. has involved characterizing the geometries of these layers—that is, measuring the thicknesses and angles of visible layers, sorting them into related categories, and comparing this information to models of how this area of Gale Crater formed. 

It’s hard to not be struck by the beauty of these images. Here, I’ve added an imperceptibly small 3D model of an astronaut to the 3D environment, colorized the terrain in the software, and further colorized and modified snapshots from the software to simulate a dusk view. In the top image, I’ve also imposed a view of the sunset in Gale Crater as captured by the Curiosity Rover, and this was submitted to the 2020 UCL Research Images as Art / Art Images as Research contest with the above text.

Take a look at a video “flyover” of this scene below!

summer updates

It’s been a whirlwind of a year—here’s a snapshot of some of my work in the past few months.

The highlight and my pride of the spring was hosting, running, and presenting for Space Science in Context (#SSiC2020), my and Dr. Ellie Armstrong‘s brainchild—this was a highly experimental virtual conference that we planned prior to the pandemic reaching Europe, and which was funded through the UCL Researcher-led Initiative Award. We were so lucky to host incredible speakers across the space and social sciences and are really excited to see where this format takes us.

I was also involved in a flurry of speaking engagements in the spring (detailed in a previous post which I’ve now removed, since much was canceled due to COVID-19). These talks include at Keele University for International Day of Women and Girls in Science, giving a lecture on icy moon geology for the Mole Valley Geological Society, a public talk with GlobalTees on 3D visualization on Mars as part of a writing retreat at Chapelgarth Estate, giving a virtual seminar on my thesis work for the planetary sciences group at University of Glasgow, and a Lunchtime Q&A chat with the Geological Society which can be found here.

SSiC and my thesis work led to a lot of interesting interviews and podcasts since March, which you can find here:

My writing has mostly been quiet as I continue work on my book. In May, I set out to raise funds for National Bail Out by writing poems for May Day, which can be read here. I also won a contest in April with The A3 Review, and will have a poem appearing in their October issue.

I’ll leave you with a piece I wrote to commemorate Katherine Johnson. The cello parts were composed using planetary navigation plots from Blackshear and Johnson (1965) (fig. 7b). Additional audio samples from Apollo 11.

October Updates

This summer was full of outreach! In May, MSSL hosted local Scouts who were returning after an exciting visit in 2018. We ran talks and activities based on the James Webb Telescope, IR imaging, 3D imaging for Mars rovers, and icy moon hydrothermal vents.

Later that month I hosted the Sutton Scholars Mission to Space (formerly Mission to Mars) event once again at UCL. This was a really wonderful day, with a handful of Ph.D. students from MSSL reaching about 100 bright students from London with activities and talks about space engineering, astrobiology, exoplanets, and space exploration.

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I had the great pleasure of speaking on the Melanin Memos Podcast in June about my work and thoughts on the future of space ethics. This is a great show highlighting women of color in STEM and a must-listen!

MSSL hosted three undergraduate physics students from Kyoto Sangyo University in September, one of whom I mentored for the week on a project to localize the Opportunity rover using simulated rover images compared with actual rover images. Summaries of all three projects can be found here! The following week, I attended the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting in Geneva, where I gave a talk on my ongoing work of processing and visualizing 3D products of the Curiosity Rover exploration site in Gale Crater, Mars. The videos from that talk can be seen here!

On October 5th, I attended and participated in the Decolonise STEM symposium, which featured keynotes and panels addressing the relationship between science and colonialism and how we might address this relationship in our research and activist work. I had the pleasure of sitting on the second panel and speaking about colonialism and space exploration (my slides can be found here, and a recording is forthcoming). This was a fantastic and extremely vital event and I’m hoping to see this work continued, especially at this important moment for UCL specifically to address its role in the history of eugenics.

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New & Upcoming

On October 19th, you can catch me at the Bloomsbury Festival’s “Under the Moon Hub” running my rover localization game and performing two pieces from THEY WILL BE FREE (2017).

Speaking of my album, the entirety of TWBF is now on Soundcloud, including the bonus tracks and select instrumental tracks! Things have otherwise been slow artistically, but I’ve published my latest poem, “pardesi,” written for the UK National Poetry Day, on my website.

Recommendations:

  • My friend and colleague Dr. Jazmin Scarlett, a social volcanologist, talks about her work on the most recent episode of The Arch & Anth Podcast
  • Lisa Pettibone, the resident artist of MSSL, is having her end-of-residency exhibition in London from October 17th to the 27th, with a symposium on Oct. 24 – details here.
  • The #DecoloniseSTEMsymposium hashtag on Twitter!

Anaglyphs from Gale Crater

The Curiosity Rover is still sending home stunners. As it continues to image higher-relief terrain, its 3D views from its various cameras will become all the more dramatic. Here are some “lazy” red/blue anaglyphs (for use with red/blue glasses) of recent Navcam images from the rover as it clambers up the central mound of Gale Crater towards Mount Sharp.

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Red/blue Navcam images of the central mound in Gale Crater, sol 2463. Credit: MSL team via Mars Mission Images; D. M. Persaud/UCL.

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Red/blue Navcam “panorama” of the central mound in Gale Crater, sol 2463. Credit: MSL team via Mars Mission Images; D. M. Persaud/UCL.

Spring Updates

I had the absolute pleasure of reading my poetry at the Battersea Arts Festival with Heaux Noire in April at the Battersea Arts Centre, which was filmed by the British Library. This was truly a night of love, warmth, and healing: surrounded by friends in a beautiful venue; new friends made; wonderful, soul-warming art enjoyed. I’m humbled by the imagination, creativity, and artistry of the other artists who performed that evening (image credit: Myah Jeffers/Heaux Noire).

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I’ve recently had five new poems published in the Caribbean folio of Anomaly’s 28th issue by Anomalous Press. These poems are part of what will be my next book and I’m honored they’ve found such a home!

In March, I revisited one of my favorite events, the Women in Physics London Conference hosted by Kings College London, as an invited panelist. This was such a special day and I look forward to attending again! You can watch the panel here.

I also gave a talk for the Astrobiology and Planetary Exploration (APEX) seminar series at UCL. I’ve uploaded my visualizations of my 3D datasets of Gale Crater, Mars, which I demonstrated in this talk, here.

On the composition front, I’ve recently made a short electro-acoustics piece called ‘magnetopause’ using NASA THEMIS data simulating what Earth’s magnetopause sounds like, recordings from MSSL, and cello recordings old and new:

I’m also continuing work on new music with Najia Khaled as we formulate a new chamber pop album. You can preview some of our demos on Soundcloud x

Recommendations:

March Updates

It’s been a quiet first few months of 2019, but still exciting for me. In January I read my poetry at Rutland Arms in London as part of a global tour hosted by Global Poets Corner. This leg of the tour was called “Your Place in the World” and had a number of fantastic poets reading their work, and included two panels on which we discussed our writing process, our “place,” and what poetry means for us, especially as writers of color. This was a warming experience and I’m looking forward to what our hosts produce next. You can listen to my set below:

At the end of February I gave a lecture as part of the fabulous UCL Horizons program. My talk engaged topics in ethics in space exploration – from international space law, to morality among astronauts living on Mars – and, as always, I learned a lot from the students.

Finally, earlier in March I participated in the final sols of the second ExoFit rover field trial, once again on the PanCam team, processing images and interfacing with the operations team to plan data acquisitions. This time the rover was in the Atacama desert in preparation for a Mars environment – you can read more about the field trial here.

Upcoming events:

  • Tomorrow I’m giving a talk on my work producing and visualizing 3D orbital imagery of Gale Crater, Mars, at the Centre for Planetary Science’s Astrobiology and Planetary Exploration (APEX) seminar series at UCL (information here)
  • I’m returning to the Womxn in Physics London Conference this year as an invited panelist – I’ll be discussing issues in equity in the physical sciences on March 30 at Kings College London! Tickets are free.
  • On April 12 I will be reading poetry with the poetry/arts group Heaux Noire as part of the Homegrown Festival in Battersea. Get your tickets here!

End-of-Year Updates

This month has seen a lot of science communication! I sat down with my colleague Jacqueline Campbell a few weeks ago to chat with students at a Spacelink participating school to discuss surface exploration of Mars. You can watch our broadcast here. I also had a lovely conversation with the fantastic podcast Superwomen in Science this spring and the episode has now been released! We talked about science communications, the relationship between art and science, and my work at MSSL.

The lab recently honored me with the 2018 Elizabeth Puchnarewicz Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Outreach for my engagement work in the past year. I am immensely grateful and look forward to new outreach and communications projects in the new year!

In the world of writing, my poem “a good child in 1907” – a piece partially based on A House for Mr. Biswas by the late & great V. S. Naipaul – has been published in Issue 3 of The Brown Orient alongside some incredible work. I’d highly recommend reading through this issue; please also consider purchasing previous issues to support this upcoming journal. Finally, I’ll be reading my poetry at the Rutland Arms in London on January 15 as the final stop of the “Global Poets Corner” – get your tickets here!

This has been a quiet year with respect to new art. I’ve written the following “microsettings” of my short poetry:

and have, very excitingly, been collaborating in-person with Najia Khaled on our album (listen to some demos here). The end of the year has me tackling some new scores for these songs, thinking about future directions with my composition (following the large volume of work from 2017 that I haven’t revisited at all), and finishing off a new collection of poetry.

It’s otherwise been a fast-paced first year of my Ph.D; I’ve been to Vienna, Madrid, Berlin, and Nantes for workshops and conferences, and have been finalizing the first chapter of my thesis. Next year brings experiments in data visualization for Mars over different rover landing sites, with new and ongoing collaborations. It’s an exciting time to be studying Mars!

Happy New Year x

Recommendations:

November Updates

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, so here’s a rundown on what I’ve been up to since May:

I was so honored to have five poems, including my music composition/poem/planetary hope “A Song for Mars,” in Trascender Magazine’s beautiful summer issue! Read them here (and make sure to check out all of the other lovely content, too). I will also have another five poems in Anomaly‘s Caribbean Folio, as well as a poem in the upcoming third issue of The Brown Orient Literary Journal.

Composing has been slow, but I’m continuing my “microsettings” of my short poetry. Here’s “orogenesis” for voice, violin, saxophone, and piano (and read the poem here):

I’ve had quite a hectic late summer/autumn in the way of my Ph.D. – in June I attended a NASA training at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Madrid, Spain, and in September I had the pleasure of attending the European Planetary Science Congress, as well as the AbGradE early career astrobiology symposium, in Berlin, Germany. You can read my poster abstract here.

A few weeks later I participated in the final three sols of the ExoFiT rover field trial, an experiment in remote science operations that involved a mock rover exploring a field site in Tabernas, Spain. As part of the PanCam team in the Rover Control Center (RCC) in Harwell my duties included processing panoramas and color images from the wide-angle camera (WAC) and high-resolution camera (HRC) of the PanCam emulator, AUPE. You can read more about the trial and see some footage from the Spain site here.

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The RCC during ExoFiT. Image credit: STFC.

Meanwhile, I wrote a short essay on equity and space science for fellow geologist Jazmin Scarlett’s series on diversity in the geosciences for Black History Month (UK). Finally, this week I’m in Nantes, France for a planetary science technical school on fluid-rock interactions, where I am presenting work on processing and visualizing 3D orbital datasets to understand the fluvial history of Gale Crater, Mars, having just submitted the first chapter of my thesis.

My art has been slow but playing with visualization – especially of a shiny new mosaic I have of Gale Crater, the result of several months of processing/analysis and eleven (!) 3D products – has been really satisfying.

Visualization of my 3D model of a channel in Gale Crater, Mars. The left shows the bird’s eye ‘map view’ and the right is ‘on the ground’ inside the channel. Visualization is in NASA DERT and these images are false-colored (for fun). Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / MSSL / D. M. Persaud

The next couple of months are a bit quieter before the new year, but I’m fleshing out and submitting new poetry projects, glaring at my music notation software and waiting for art to manifest, and working on some exciting Mars things – to be updated here hopefully more regularly!

Recommendations:

May Updates

 

It’s been a busy spring and I’ve been neglecting my updates!

In music — I had my electro-acoustics piece “Godspeed, John Glenn” at The Art of Planetary Science 2018 show at UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in February (in absentia). The piece is a bonus track of THEY WILL BE FREE and is an homage to John Glenn’s legacy, and I’m really glad to have shared this piece at such a wonderful event! You can listen to the track here. Najia Khaled and I are working on new music for our chamber-pop duo, as well – here’s a preview of “The Best of It.” After a few months’ break, I’m also starting to get back into setting my poetry; listen to “Alpha Lyrae” here.

I am blessed to have been interviewed about my upcoming book do not perform this by my wonderful uncle-cousin Rajiv Mohabir in Jacket2 as part of his landmark series on “Coolitude Poetics” – read the interview here. Additionally, I had a poem called “astronomy” published on The Aerogram for World Poetry Day, and have a new poem, “crime and science,” in the sixth issue of The Deaf Poets Society in conjunction with the Split the Rock Festival, at which I was honored to read a few poems via Skype. Another new poem of mine will be in this summer’s issue of Trascender Magazine. These poems are part of a new manuscript, house of mud, that I hope to share with you soon!

In outreach and public engagement, several UCL students and I successfully ran the Sutton Scholars “Mission to Mars” event in February for ~120 young students. I was also very honored to have been invited to speak at the Women in Physics London 2018 Conference at Kings College London on March 10th – read more about the event here  – and demonstrate rock fluorescence for kids at UCL’s International Day of Light celebration this month. Sharing aspects of earth and space science with children is always extremely rewarding, as I find it a two-way learning experience about our place in the solar system and what it means to relate to and study physics.

In this vein, I wrote a short reflection on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch for a great article by Emily Lakdawalla (The Planetary Society), “Talking About The Tesla,” on the AAS Women in Astronomy Blog in February. Finally, I’ve recently recorded an interview about my work for an episode of the spectacular podcast, Superwomen in Science, which will be out soon – this was a great conversation about the ways we define science vs. art, especially with regards to science communications.

In April I spent a week Vienna to participate in a 3D visualization workshop for planetary terrain and the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting; last week I presented at the ExoMars PanCam science team meeting and in the next month will also present at the Centre for Planetary Sciences meeting at MSSL – it’s been an extremely chaotic but rewarding spring! You can find ongoing updates from my group here on Twitter. x

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