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While certain earthbound companies have fixed their sights on the stars, HSD PhD candidate Brenda Trinidad has hers squarely on the companies themselves. Applying the techniques of literary analysis and visual studies to the public documents of pioneering space tourism providers, Trinidad wants to know, “What is the role of the public in the story that [the companies] are telling?” In other words, how are space tourism companies shaping the public’s relationship to space?
Trinidad looks at her research as a “skill-building endeavor.” She is still experimenting with ethnographic techniques augmented by discourse analysis. “A wonderful place to be applying these skills is gathering oral histories of those writing the space exploration stories, which includes the public,” Trinidad says with enthusiasm. “ Depending on how you count, there are 22-70 space agencies worldwide. , To what extent can the stories of these all these voices be written such that a global history of human exploration into space is recorded?.” She seeks to unite these new skills with her background in education, physics, and experimental psychology, along with a love of photography and film.
“HSD has allowed me to bring these different threads together in a way that no other program is able to do,” she avows. “Every person here has provided some opportunity for inspiration and learning.” SFIS faculty member Jameson Wetmore, for instance, taught her a “tremendous amount” regarding science communication and museums, areas Trinidad would enjoy applying her educational training. Trinidad is pleased to see the growing consideration within HSD for training and preparation in both academic and alternative career paths as a result of SFIS.
Trinidad’s advice to future HSD students speaks to the kind of spiritual crisis many become familiar with in pursuing graduate degrees. “It is really easy to focus on the logistics of checking the boxes and in the process lose your soul,” she says. “There is a myth students adopt that there is some rite of passage – that we have to suffer. Suffering is not a requirement.” Trinidad admits that sometimes the dictates of funding can be constraining when weighing research choices, but still urges future students to “try to stay as true to your heart as you can with the ways that you choose your focus of study.
These moving remarks are no surprise from Trinidad, who noted hiking the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrim route in Northern Spain alongside a NEXUS Lab Project Management Fellowship as important benchmarks in her personal education. Trinidad hopes to complete her dissertation by December, after which she intends to remain pedagogically engaged. “In my heart of hearts, I am an educator. Whatever I do it has to help me stay connected to the learning process.”