Dr. Tana Joseph - South African
The Founder and Director of AstroComms
Dr. Tana Joseph is from South Africa and is currently based in the Netherlands. She has a PhD in Astrophysics and has worked with data in astronomy for over ten years. She is a data analyst with experience in data cleansing, quantitative and qualitative analysis, survey design, user feedback analysis, and reporting, as well as data cleaning, cleaning, analysis, visualisation, and statistics. She is an expert at and enthusiastic about explaining scientific and technological insights to both technical and non-technical audiences.
Dr Tana Joseph is the founder and director of AstroComms, a communications and consultancy firm specialising in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). AstroComms is dedicated to assisting STEM practitioners and organisations in effectively communicating their work to the general public, the media, policy makers, and the creative industry.
“You don’t expect a black South African woman born during apartheid to have a very straightforward path into academia. This is what makes my journey unexpected,” says Dr. Tana Joseph.
Solution and Impact
AstroComms assists STEM practitioners, institutions, and policymakers to use STEM as a catalyst for economic and social growth.
AstroComms aims to close the gap between stakeholders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and the general public and media.
AstroComms aims to help STEM practitioners and policymakers leverage STEM for the betterment of all.
WiredUp had a Q & A interview session with Dr. Tana Joseph, the Founder and Director of AstroComms
Who is Dr. Tana Joseph, what is your background?
I am a queer, Black South African astronomer. I’m originally from Cape town and did most of my studies at the University of Cape Town. I completed my Ph.D. in (astro)physics at the University of Southampton in the UK. I am also very involved in science communication, public engagement, and social justice efforts within the astronomy community.
Give us an example of how you practically share your passion for the STEM field?
I have been doing science communication since I was a postgraduate student in Cape Town. I love sharing astronomy research with the public, by giving public lectures, radio interviews, being on TV, and of course, on social media. Three years ago I started my own STEM communications and consulting company to help STEM practitioners and organisations better share their work with a wider audience. I also work with policymakers and the creative industries by provisioning technical expertise for their projects.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of starting my company. I never thought I would be an entrepreneur! But making science communication my business just made so much sense after a while. In my research career, I am most proud of being awarded both Fulbright and Royal Society fellowships in recognition of my research excellence.
What challenges have you entered on your journey?
I have never had a black female lecturer at university, until a year ago I was always the only black woman in any research group I was in. This has led to me feeling lonely, isolated, not well-understood, and also tokenised during my studies and career.
How have you overcome, or are working to overcome, some of these challenges?
I have become an outspoken advocate for transformation, equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonisation efforts in science academia. Working with researchers all over the world, I am pushing back against the status quo of academia that pretends to be a meritocracy, but is actually based on outdated and harmful practises that push marginalised people out of STEM.
What advice would you give to young people who are interested in the STEM field?
STEM is for everyone. It can be hard for young people to participate in STEM at school, at the tertiary level, or as a career. I would advise young people to look for mentors and other support programmes to help them on their STEM journey. Social media is a great place to find like-minded people who are happy to share their advice, resources, and time with young people.
Another great way to get involved in STEM is via community science projects, where people who don’t have formal STEM education work alongside researchers to explore data and make discoveries. One such project is called the Zooniverse (https://www.zooniverse.org/) where you can work on projects from history and climate science to medicine and physics.