Payload Pioneers 2023: Emma Louden

As a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University, Emma Louden is working at the intersection of astrophysics and the aerospace industry.

“One of the truisms that I have discovered during my dual paths in astrophysics and the space industry is that these two regimes are surprisingly siloed,” the 25-year-old said. “Creating a proactive and productive future for space exploration requires bringing these worlds together.”

Her day job: Louden is writing her astrophysics dissertation on “the geometry of exoplanetary systems—placing our planet in context.” But that’s far from her only involvement in the space community. 

She actively works to excite and mentor the next generation of the space workforce, and spoke at SATELLITE2023 about investing in programs for K-12 students. The Brooke Owens Fellows alum helped found the Ask-A-Brookie program, which pairs other alums with students as mentors. Louden said she is especially committed to connecting with women and other groups that are underrepresented in the space community. 

“Despite the rampant misogyny and the ever-present pressure to leave the field, I persist in STEM because of the mentoring and support I received from teachers, professors, and friends. I am committed to paying it forward,” she said. 

On the side: Outside of her coursework, Louden is working on creating GLADYSCALE, a ranking metric for how astronomical science projects will be affected by megaconstellations. 

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