About the Messenger

I’m Michelle Sandell. Growing up in small-town Texas, I always had a special place in my heart for astronomy. It started with a combination of evenings spent lying in the backyard, admiring the starry sky, and my habit of reading (and re-reading) Greek and Roman stories about the characters embodied in the constellations. Orion. The Pleiades. Cassiopeia. Taurus. And of course the dramas of Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and the other deities whose names tag the planets.

As I pursued my higher education, that naïve early interest was honed, especially at Virginia Tech and Northwestern University.

At Virginia Tech, where I gained my master’s degree, I focused on the history and philosophy of science, and science and technology studies. I was required to get serious about my understanding of the history and culture of science, and the technology enabling it. I visited an extensive astronomical observatory site for the first time, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, and was astounded.

Multiple telescopes dotted the site, and like enormous sunflowers they silently turned their dishes to catch the signal they sought, while abundant deer placidly grazed on the grass around them .

That scene of science harmonizing with nature was sublime, and permanently hooked me.

Artist’s rendering of the Haystack Observatory, with the interior of the radome revealed.

At Northwestern University I received the then-existing history and philosophy of science fellowship and continued my focus on radio and infrared astronomy. An additional fellowship in my final year gave me the freedom to seek, and earn, a return to the Green Bank NRAO. There I completed my dissertation, learned how to reduce data, and applied and received the opportunity to operate the 37-meter telescope to run my own observing program at MIT‘s Haystack Observatory in Massachusetts.

My other main academic interests were logic, the history and philosophy of biology (particularly evolutionary theory and genetics), the history of philosophy, and the ancient (Attic) Greek language. These things—searching for knowledge, finding ways to communicate, and understanding, learning from, and honoring our history—inspire me daily.

At bottom: I love a good story. Hawai‘i, where I now live, is rich with science, history, language, culture, and talking story. I look forward to sharing with you my interest in these subjects, and the stories of others, on this website.

Interested in sharing your story on this site? Please contact me and let me know! Mahalo!