Mapping a Path Today: Roles and Challenges

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.

Pre-show Panel with Lynn Redding Carlson, Daina Bouquin, and Lindsay Smith Zrull

Please join us on Sunday, May 20 at 1pm (before the 2pm performance of The Women Who Mapped the Stars) for a pre-show panel with Lynn Redding Carlson, Daina Bouquin, and Lindsay Smith Zrull.

Lynn Redding Carlson is an astrophysicist who has worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Netherlands, France, and the U.S., and is interested in alternative and interdisciplinary approaches to astronomy education. She completed her PhD in Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University with research through the Space Telescope Science Institute. Throughout her career, Dr. Carlson has harbored an interest in women’s studies and the often-underestimated role that women have played in building our understanding of the Universe. This spring, she developed and taught “The Universe: Illuminated by Women” through the Tufts University Experimental College. Set against the backdrop of women’s evolving roles in society, the course provided the scientific background to understand astronomical innovations made by women and what these discoveries meant. Dr. Carlson also teaches introductory astronomy and mathematics courses at Lasell College.

Daina Bouquin is the Head Librarian at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. At the CfA, she primarily focuses on lowering social and technical barriers that impact the astronomy community’s ability to create and share their work. Some of her specific topics of interest include open science, research software preservation, machine learning, and the history of astronomy. You can find more of her recent work in these areas on Github and ORCiD. Originally from Buffalo, NY, she currently live in Melrose, MA with her husband and three blind cats. She holds a MS in Data Analytics in addition to an MLIS. She is a member of the Henry David Thoreau Zen Sangha of Boundless Way Zen. She enjoys year-round ocean swimming and being outside.

Lindsay Smith Zrull is the Curator of Astronomical Photographs at the Harvard College Observatory. In addition to giving historical tours of the observatory and caring for Harvard’s 500,000 astronomical glass plate photographs, she runs the daily operations for the DASCH Project (Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard). Smith Zrull is passionate about the groundbreaking work women accomplished in past centuries and she enjoys speaking with the public about Harvard Observatory’s historic women computers and astronomers.
You can find more information about the glass plate collection at our website ( and on Twitter (@DASCHdesk).

Power, Politics and Art: The Taj Mahal

Rajiv Joseph’s beautiful and provocative play, Guards at the Taj, revolves around the construction of the Taj Mahal, and raises questions about how grand building projects affect the ordinary lives of people who are caught in the great game of power and politics. What drives the building of a monumental masterpiece like the Taj Mahal? To whose benefit? At what cost? Who owns beauty?

In this informal symposium, actors from Guards at the Taj will perform scenes from the play, and our guest panel will explore these questions with the audience, making connections with both the history of India and today’s cultural/political climate.

Though the symposium is free, seating is limited and reservations are required. Please RSVP online.

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Mass Humanities – A Commonwealth of Ideas

Special Guests for this Symposium Include:

Rajiv Joseph (playwright, Guards at the Taj) Rajiv Joseph’s play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama and also awarded a grant for Outstanding New American Play by the National Endowment for the Arts. His play Guards at the Taj was a 2016 Obie Winner for Best New American Play and 2016 Lucille Lortel Winner for Best Play. His play Archduke, received its World Premiere this spring at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Read his entire bio on our website.

Neelam Khoja is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University studying Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies. She is presently on a dissertation completion fellowship through the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard. Neelam has received numerous travel grants for dissertation research in India, England, France, and Austria. She has been part of the vibrant Cambridge community since 2008.

Scholar Social for Guards at the Taj

Join us after the 7:30pm show on Thursday, March 8, 2018 for a fascinating discussion with Mou Banerjee about their work and Guards at the Taj.

Mou Banerjee is a College Fellow at Harvard, where she also received her PhD in Modern South Asian History. Her dissertation examines conversion to Protestant Christianity in colonial Bengal. She analyses and explains how conversion emerged as the earliest locus of public debate, social reform and anti-colonial resistance in colonial India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using conversion as an historical lens, Banerjee traces a history of the creation of the Indian political self.

Shah Jahan: Retelling History on the Stage

This informal symposium will delve into the dynamics between the discipline of history on the one hand (the study and interpretation of the past at the service of arriving at truths) and the discipline of theater on the other (the practice of retelling history at the service of discerning meaning).

SETU actors will perform scenes from two plays- Shah Jahan (performed in a new translation by SETU in 2013) and Guards at the Taj (running March 1 – April 1 at Central Square Theater).

A panel will explore related questions with the audience: How does the telling of the history of the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan differ between the perspective of the late 19th century Bengali playwright D.L. Ray in Shah Jahan, and the contemporary Indian-American playwright Rajiv Joseph in Guards at the Taj? What is the nature of the truths we seek from the stage?

Though the symposium is free, seating is limited and reservations are required. Please RSVP online.

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Mass Humanities – A Commonwealth of Ideas

Special Guests for this Symposium Include:

Sunil Sharma is Professor of Persian and Indian Literatures at Boston University’s Department of World Languages and Literatures. He is the author of the recent book, Mughal Arcadia: Persian Poetry in an Indian Court (Harvard University Press). His teaching and research interests are in the areas of epic and Sufi poetry, history of the book, translation, and travel writing.

Subrata Das is the director, a co-founder, and an actor with the non-profit community English theater group Stage Ensemble Theater Unit (SETU) ( in the Boston area. The mission of SETU is to bridge the cultural gap between India and western society. Subrata is also a board member of the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA. He has written and, along with Shah Jahan, has translated several plays. He is currently directing an all-female cast play to be staged in April.

Scholar Social for Proof

Join us after the 7:30pm show on Thursday, January 25, 2018 for a fascinating discussion with a renowned scholar about their work and Proof.