The Women Who Mapped the Stars describes the lives and accomplishments of five women employed at the Harvard College Observatory over a century ago. They worked at half a man’s salary and in their shadow. Despite the huge strides women have made since, the challenges faced by the women in the play seem just as relevant today.

How do we continue on our path of progress for the next generation?

How can we ensure that women bring their full potential to, and, benefit from humanity’s science and technology-driven future?

These are questions we invite the audience to discuss following the matinee performance of Van Dyke’s play led by a dynamic panel including the playwright, Joyce Van Dyke and several voices from the science community to share their experiences and provoke:

  • Joyce Van Dyke, Playwright
  • Regina Jorgenson, Director, Maria Mitchell Obervatory
  • Prof. Meenakshi Narian, Professor of Physics, Brown University
  • moderated by Raji Patel, Co-director, MIT NASA Space Grant Program

The panel is hosted by the local alumni chapter of the Indian Institutes of Technology, IIT AGNE (Indian Institutes of Technology Association of Greater New England).  Though the panel discussion is free, seating is limited, and reservations are required. Please RSVP online on the Theater website.

Panelist Bios

Joyce Van Dyke, Playwright
Joyce Van Dyke’s The Women Who Mapped the Stars, commissioned by Central Square Theater, is receiving its world premiere April 19 – May 20, as the inaugural production of the Brit D’Arbeloff Women in Science Production Series.

Running simultaneously is the off-Broadway premiere of Daybreak, the story of two women friends in the aftermath of the Armenian genocide, produced by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, with the support of a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, April 21 – May13.)  Joyce’s other plays include The Oil Thief, commissioned by the Ensemble Studio Theatre / Sloan Project, produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and winner of the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding New Script (2009). A Girl’s War was produced by Golden Thread Productions (2009), New Repertory Theatre (2003), and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (2001), and won the Gassner Award and the Boston Globe’s “Top Ten” plays of 2001. In 2015, she was commissioned by the Armenian Heritage Foundation to write a site-specific play, Friends of Armenia, that was produced at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall.

Joyce has been awarded residencies from the MacDowell Colony, the Huntington Theatre Playwriting Fellows program, and Central Square Theater’s PlayPen. She teaches playwriting and Shakespeare at Northeastern and Harvard.

Regina Jorgenson, Director, Maria Mitchell Obervatory
Born and raised in California, Regina first came to the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) intern under the tutelage of former Director of Astronomy, Dr. Vladimir Strelnitski. This formative experience helped inspire her to make a career out of her love for astronomy.

After completing her B.S. degree in Physics, Regina won a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship that supported her in a year-long adventure travelling around the world and investigating the effects of culture on science through the eyes of women astronomers.

In 1999, Regina returned to the MMA as the Assistant Director of Astronomy until 2002 when she left to pursue graduate studies in California. Regina earned her Ph.D. in Physics at UC San Diego, specializing in studies of galaxy formation and evolution. She continued this work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge and then won a prestigious National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship that she took to the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawai’i. There she used the largest optical telescopes in the world to obtain the first spectral images of normal galaxies in the early Universe.

Regina was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics at Willamette University in Oregon, before returning to Nantucket as the Director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory in 2016.

Prof. Meenakshi Narian, Professor of Physics, Brown University Professor Meenakshi Narain’s research interests are in experimental high energy physics and her ultimate goal is to illuminate the character of physics at the TeV energy scale. At the loftiest level, it is part of the age-old quest of mankind to understand where we come from and why we are here.  Meenakshi Narain has been involved with the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland) and the DØ experiment at Fermilab (Batavia, IL). She was instrumental in the discovery of the top quark in 1995, which is the heaviest fundamental particle and as heavy as an Osmium atom.

Narain continues her quest at the LHC with the CMS experiment. In 2012, Narain’s group had significant involvement in the discovery of the Higgs Boson.  Narain continues her quest at the LHC with the CMS experiment. In 2012, Narain’s group had significant involvement in the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Prof. Meenakshi Narain received her PhD in physics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She joined the Brown faculty in 2007 having previously taught at Boston University. In Jan 2013, Narain was appointed the coordinator of Fermilab’s LHC Physics Center for CMS, where she has promoted collaboration with colleagues from South America, Europe, India, and Iran, in a peaceful quest for knowledge.

Narain is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. She has been a Wilson Fellow at Fermilab and has received a Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education grant, Major Research Infrastructure grants, and the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. She is also a recipient of the Outstanding Junior Investigator Award from the US Department of Energy. Her current research is supported by the DOE. She is a co-author on about 400 peer-reviewed journals and has given numerous public lectures and invited conference presentations.

Raji Patel, Co-Director MIT NASA Space Grant Program Raji Patel is the Co-Director of the MA Space Grant Consortium, a network of colleges and universities, based at MIT, to conduct NASA’s education mission.

In this role, she works with universities and colleges in MA. She also engages with industry and the state government to promote STEM education and provide research funding to students across Massachusetts. Annually, she conducts a program at the Kennedy Space Center for MIT seniors and graduate students to enable them to learn about the operations at NASA.

She was awarded the grant for the NASA (K-12) Summer of Innovation initiative. MA was one of four states to receive the award nationally, and she served as Director for the programs in Massachusetts including the high school scientific ballooning program, rocketry for high school girls, and teacher professional development in robotics

Previously, she has worked as a financial and business manager in organizations in the U.S. and abroad, including Wellesley College, Price Waterhouse and the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India. She received a bachelor’s degree in physics in India and a master’s degree in finance from MIT.