Impact Spotlight: Anna Voelker

  • Published: Monday, Nov. 23, 2020
Learn about Anna Voelker
Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ohio State University Department of Astronomy and the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP)

Anna Voelker
Anna Voelker
Ohio State University Department of Astronomy
and the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics

Theme song
"If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" by Cat Stevens

Quarantine recipe
Cinnamon Buns!

Juggling, unicycling, banjo, baking, writing poetry, and watching Columbo.

Book or podcast
I don't have one, but for folks who like listening to books or podcasts to fall asleep, I always recommend the imaginative "sleepcasts" on the Headspace App.

I got to where I am today with the support of my family, friends, and mentor Dr. John Beacom, whose commitment not only to his students’ success but also to their happiness and well-beings has taught me what exceptional mentorship looks like.

Community meaning
Being a part of the ARIS community has afforded me the incredible opportunity of meeting new people who share my passion for STEM accessibility. I am excited to continue connecting with members of the ARIS community who are interested in working towards equity and inclusion in STEM.

Anna graduated from The Ohio State University in 2018 with a self-designed degree in Science Communication and Accessibility and a minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics. In 2018, they received the OSU President's Prize, a $100,000 award for projects that foster social change. Anna used this funding to launch SciAccess, an international initiative designed to promote disability inclusion in STEM.

They hosted the inaugural SciAccess Conference at Ohio State in 2019, bringing together 250 attendees from around the world and featuring over 60 speakers who shared their expertise in science accessibility. This included keynote presentations by space explorer Anousheh Ansari and renowned autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin. In 2020, the SciAccess Conference went virtual and had over 1,000 registrants from 46 nations and all 7 continents. It featured a keynote address Dr. Soyeon Yi, the first and only South Korean Astronaut. Watch Anna's YouTube video with additional details about SciAccess 2020.

The professional field of institutions, organizations and individuals who develop, implement, and study strategies and approaches for facilitating informal STEM learning has grown and diversified since the late 1960s to be recognized as a key actor in the national STEM education ecosystem. More recently, those who identify as working in informal STEM education, science communication, public engagement and/or outreach have increasingly become involved in synergistic, boundary-spanning efforts and events where they are sharing and comparing successes, challenges and opportunities and building knowledge through reflective research and practice.

Anna specializes in accessible astronomy outreach for diverse learners and has worked extensively with blind and vision impaired (BVI) students using 3D printing, data sonification, and other multi-sensory educational approaches. Anna currently runs a variety of astronomy outreach initiatives, including the SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program, which connects BVI 7-12th grade students from around the world with Ohio State astronomy mentors. Anna also hosts Making Space for All, a public webinar series that showcases research conducted by underrepresented scientists and engineers. Anna is a 2018 Brooke Owens Fellow and previously worked in space science outreach at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the South African Astronomical Observatory, and the Aerospace Corporation.

SciAccess 2019
SciAccess 2019 Keynote Speaker Dr. Temple Grandin is pictured in the middle of this group photo.

SciAccess 2020
Astronaut Soyeon Yi's Keynote Address during SciAccess 2020

Anna sharing 3D printed galaxies at Smithsonian Anna with astronauts at Brook Owne Fellowship Summit
While working at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Anna designed 3D printed galaxies for BVI users. In the above photo, these galaxies are being shared with the public at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Brooke Owens Fellowship Summit. Astronaut Jose Hernandez, Space Explorer Anousheh Ansari (who was a keynote speaker at 2019), and Astronaut and former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.