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5 Things About Me: NASA Communications Consultant Linda Billings

A career in journalism lead AAAS Fellow Linda Billings back to school and eventually to NASA. (Photo: David Gentile)

Linda Billings, Ph.D.
AAAS Fellow
Consultant to NASA's Astrobiology and Near Earth Object Programs
National Institute of Aerospace

Background: I'm a consultant to NASA's astrobiology and near-Earth object programs on communication issues. What I do on the job depends on what day it is—there's nothing routine about it. I'm the only person I know who does what I do, which makes work life very interesting and sometimes a little bit lonely! I have a Ph.D. in mass communication, which I earned after years of working as a journalist and consultant in Washington. My expertise is science communication, and the community of scholars I most closely identify with are those engaged in social studies of science. I became a AAAS Fellow in 2009. While I'm affiliated with the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia, I live and work in the Washington, D.C., area. I work at home, at NASA headquarters, on the road—wherever there's Wi-Fi!
Question 1: Why did you become a researcher?
Answer: I love learning and, even more, I want to understand things. I started out in D.C. as a journalist, and when I realized I wanted to go deeper I went back to school to complete my graduate education.

Question 2: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: I've worked hard to maintain my intellectual independence and remain true to my values. I've only quit a job once, and it was due to a conflict with my employers over professional ethics.

Question 3: Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical science-related issue—preferably one not associated with your own field.
Answer: As a social scientist, a humanist, and a citizen, I'm appalled that in the 21st century our society is still not taking care of people with mental illnesses. Overdependence on pharmaceuticals, the high cost of psychiatric care, persistent social stigma ... these problems need to be solved, now.

Question 4: What's playing on your music player?
Answer: Jimi Hendrix (my all-time favorite), Howlin' Wolf (I love the blues, got the CD at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Celso Duarte (amazing Paraguayan harpist), the Breeders, Lila Downs.

Question 5: If you could have one day in another profession, what would you want to do?
Answer: I'd like to be Jane Goodall and watch chimpanzees all day.

Representative Image Caption
A career in journalism lead AAAS Fellow Linda Billings back to school and eventually to NASA. (Photo: David Gentile)
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