Curiosity Expert: Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik
Astronomer, Lowell Observatory
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik grew up in Canada, in Dundas, Ontario. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up while in the 7th grade, Dr. Shkolnik said she wanted to be an astronomer.
She attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she received undergraduate degrees in math and physics and spent her summers in a condensed-matter physics lab. Wanting to get involved more in astrophysical research, Dr. Shkolnik swapped coasts and enrolled at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, to work with pioneer planet-hunter, Professor Gordon Walker. "The discovery of exoplanets is what prompted me to make the switch from physics to astrophysics," she says, pointing to the first confirmation of an exoplanet in 1995 as decisive for her.
After completing her studies in 2004, she was awarded a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship which she took to the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and then a Carnegie fellowship at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Now at Lowell Observatory, Dr. Shkolnik's focus is on characterizing exoplanets post discovery. For almost 10 years, she's been studying these newfound worlds for magnetic fields, atmospheric composition and tidal evolution. She also hunts for the youngest and coldest stars which are the best places to look for the youngest and hottest planets.
Dr. Shkolnik is also greatly involved in promoting women and other underrepresented minorities in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). To help increase the number of women in the sciences, she has co-founded a national peer-mentoring organization (Goals & Problem-solving for Scientists; GPS), which facilitates problem-solving among minority scientists from a wide range of research fields.
Dr. Shkolnik lives in and enjoys Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband and three young children.