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something of an Indiana Jones mien about her in her alfalfa-colored
trousers, black monkey boots and athlete's grin. Put a wide-brimmed
hat on her head and a bullwhip in her hand, and it wouldn't be much
of a stretch to imagine her chasing precious jewels among the ruins
of some ancient lost temple rather than jewels in the sky.
are no star maps on the walls of her cramped office. Its most defining
touches are a red velvet couch and a Robert Mappelthorpe photograph
of bodybuilder Lisa Lyon in a futuristic choir gown. On her door
is taped a fortune -- "The night life is for you" -- along with
cartoons and photographs. Working at the telescope, she favors classical
music for those moments when her concentration must be at its keenest,
and loud, pulsing rock for the wee hours when it's tough to keep
one's eyes open. In conversation, her words tend to streak forth
like shooting stars. But her rapid-fire delivery does not trouble
her students; for them, her lectures convey a palpable excitement
and they are engaged by her and enraptured by the science. Many
say her's is the best class they have.
there is more to her than just science. She firmly believes in her
role as a mentor. "Science was always something I was good at, and
I was fortunate to be in an environment where this wasn=t discouraged,"
she says. "In my studies, I've made very conscious decisions about
who I work with. That's advice I always give to undergrads. I feel
strongly about the importance of mentorship roles."
took that ethic a step further when, in 1995, she published, with
Judith Cohen and illustrator David Katz, a picture book, You Can
Be a Woman Astronomer (also available on CD-ROM). The book, which
received a glowing review and strong recommendation from the School
Library Journal, lets girls 9 to 12 know that if they, like Ghez,
love to solve crosswords, work jigsaw puzzles or fiddle with Rubik's
Cubes -- in other words, if they are solution oriented -- they,
too, can aspire to achievements at the pinnacle of science.
message obviously strikes home with many girls. Ghez's favorite
picture taped to her door is of a young girl, maybe 10 years old,
with a pretty smile and a blue denim hat to which a big yellow flower
is pinned. She is standing in front of a science-project display
about telescopes and is holding a copy of Ghez's book in her small
hands. Next to the picture is a note, illustrated with luminous
stars and planets, from the child: "Dear Prof. Ghez. Thank you for
letting me ask you questions about your job. I hope one day there
is a planet or star with your name."