Dr. Natalie Hinkel is a researcher at Vanderbilt University, studying the composition of nearby stars and how that may affect the make-up of planets orbiting those stars. She got her bachelor’s degree in physics and math at Oberlin College, a small liberal arts school, where she rounded out her education by including dance, theater, and romantic literature so people would talk to her at parties. Her PhD is in Astrophysics from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, which combines the fields of geology, planetary science, and astronomy, at Arizona State University.
Natalie has put together the largest catalog of element abundances measured in stars near to the Sun, called the Hypatia Catalog (see video below). It contains +65 elements in over 6000 stars. Her work has brought to light a number of important (and technical) truths within the field, which she has sought to explain by leading multiple international collaborations. Natalie also observes planets that are outside of the solar system, or exo-planets, by using the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Telescope in Chile. She has studied exotic systems where planets orbit two stars (think Tatooine!) and what life would be like on an exo-moon (which has yet to be discovered!).
Natalie is a recent transplant to Nashville, having spent the last ten years bouncing back and forth between Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She enjoys rock climbing and hiking. She also has a podcast called The Science Bar, which is similar to “Drunk History” but focused on science news.