About Me

Hello everyone! My name is Erin Howard and I’m a junior at Western Washington University. I am double majoring in physics and math/computer science and double minoring in statistics and astronomy. I am a non-traditional student who returned to university after working nearly 10 years in the tech industry as a website and software tester, so I’m quite a bit older than my peers! When I attempted university the first time, I had problems with undiagnosed disabilities and a lack of accommodations. Thankfully, a full ten years after that, I returned to community college, got my diagnoses (Autism, ADHD, and OCD), earned my associates degree, and have been succeeding in university. Only a few more years until graduation in June 2022! After undergrad, I plan on pursuing a PhD in astroinformatics, where I can combine my love of astronomy and computer science and create tools and software to make astronomy research computationally easier.

When I’m not schooling, I am an ambassador for WWU’s Physicists for Inclusion in STEM and Out in Science clubs where my role is to connect us to the wide network of STEM clubs on campus. I also enjoy volunteering with West Sound CoderDojo, Girl Scouts of Western Washington, and Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science (GEMS). For work I am a planetarium educator at Western’s Spanel Planetarium, a faculty assistant specializing in the astronomy classes, as well as tutoring through the Disability Access Center. All of these activities keep me busy, but they are also loads of fun and give me a sense of accomplishment that I never felt before going back to school. I hope that everyone has the opportunity to pursue their dreams, because it is never too late to try for them again.

About My Mentor

Dr. James R. A. Davenport is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Washington and is the Associate Director of the DIRAC Institute. His research specialization is in time domain astronomy, focusing on large data sets from the Kepler, ZTF, and TESS missions. In addition to his research, Dr. Davenport is an avid science communicator and has his own blog If We Assume which covers his journey through data analysis, visualizations, and life.

About My Project

This summer I will be working on developing a machine learning model that can identify obvious eclipsing binary systems from TESS light curves. If time permits, we also wish to determine characteristics of these light curves and perhaps classify them.

2021 Final Report

2020 Final Report

My Blog

My Blog