I am a Greek/Sicilian-American born in New York, although most of my childhood was spent in New Jersey with my parents and two younger sisters, Cassandra and Sydney, all of which are now financial planners. Growing up I played the piano competitively for over a decade, before surprising everyone and deciding to study astronomy instead. I was very inspired by the Carl Sagan's Cosmos series and popular science books, which led me into the astrophysics program at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, and later into the astronomy PhD program at Cornell University in upstate New York.
As a graduate student I worked as counselor for Cornell's student mental health counseling program, EARS, and enjoyed being one of the trainers for new counselors for 5 semesters. I also facilatated the university's depression support group, and occasionally gave talks about how to listen and empathize better with others across campus at teaching and diversity conferences. Along with my work as a counselor, I also was very involved in the push to improve mental health services at Cornell by sharing my own story of mental health struggles, in an effort led by Cornell Graduate Students United. While access to these services has started to improve, there is still a lot of work to be done!
Inline with my original passion for playing the piano, music is still very much an important part of my life with dancing! I studied Turkish and Egyptian dance for 3 years in Ithaca, and had the pleasure of being able to perform with Ithaca's Chandani Dance Troupe.
As many of those who know me well, I am incredibly fond of animals, and was a volunteer at the SPCA in Ithaca, which was the first ever no-kill animal shelter in the United States! I also am very fortunate enough to be able to spend lots of time with my parents' two amazing dogs, Charlie (an English pointer) and Zoey (a yellow lab), and former Cornell astronomer Victoria Calafult's cat, who are featured below.
Along with researching planetary habitability, I believe it's very important to take action to keep our own planet habitable. I have done work with both the Ithaca chapters of the Sunrise Movement and the Extinction Rebellion, and briefly ran a write-in campaign for Ithaca's city council to help push for greener policies. I also worked with the student-run organization Climate Justice Cornell to push for Cornell University to divest from fossil fuels (now they are!) and I am now a member of the relatively new organization Astronomers for Planet Earth, which I would urge all my fellow astronomers to join. Although it's true that I'm looking for another Earth-like planet with my research, even if we find one there's no possibility of traveling there in the near future! As Carl Sagan said, "Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand."