Erika Hamden

Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Arizona
Erika Hamden
  • Currently leading a team designing a UV space telescope
  • Awarded a Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship in 2016
  • 2019 TED Fellow

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Dr. Erika Hamden is a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Arizona. She develops UV detector technology with JPL, builds telescopes for NASA, and observes galaxies and hydrogen all over the universe.

Her last project was a UV telescope that flew on a high-altitude balloon. She is currently leading a team designing a UV space telescope. When she isn't building or thinking about telescopes, she has a serious yoga practice, is learning to fly a plane, and loves hiking in the desert around Tucson.

Erika Hamden received a bachelors in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Harvard in 2006. She worked as a chef for a year before beginning grad school at Columbia University, receiving a PhD in 2014. She moved to Caltech for a postdoc, working with Prof. Chris Martin and was an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow and the R.A. and G.B. Millikan Prize Postdoctoral Fellow in Experimental Physics at the California Institute of Technology. Hamden was awarded a Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship for her detector work in 2016. Prof. Hamden is a 2019 TED Fellow.

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Speaker Video

Erika Hamden: What it takes to launch a telescope

What it Takes to Build a Telescope: Perseverance and the Art of Pursuing an Impossible Goal.
This motivational talk places Prof. Hamden’s incredible work to build a transformative telescope within the context of technology development and telescope building throughout history. Acknowledging the enormous goal her team has set out to accomplish, Hamden puts a great emphasis on overcoming obstacles and working through failures to achieve the impossible. She speaks bluntly about the cost of progress, why success never comes without failure, and how to double down on audacious goals, and inspires audiences with her honesty, humility, intelligence, and determination.

Astrophysics & Telescope Building: The Innovative, Ridiculous World of Scientific Ballooning.
This talk is geared towards a general audience and discusses both the history and utility of science using a balloon platform. There is a focus on the process of balloon launches and Prof. Hamden’s own work on FIREBall, highlighting how scientists have pivoted and innovated throughout history.

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