Featured at the 241st Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), Dr. Jason E. Ybarra led a session dedicated to discussing neurodiversity in astronomy, specifically addressing the challenges and opportunities in the field.
During the AAS 241 Meeting in Seattle, WA, Ybarra led a session aimed to educate the astronomy community on what neurodiversity is and how institutions can be more inclusive and supportive of neurodiverse employees and students. Topics explored in the session included skill sets unique to neurodiverse members, the neurodiversity paradigm, barriers that are often encountered, and how institutions can be more inclusive and supportive. The session included a panel discussion in which Ybarra focused on educational settings. In addition to teaching, Ybarra, who identifies as neurodivergent, has experience mentoring neurodivergent students.
Ybarra reflecting on inclusivity in the field of astronomy states “As an educator, I very often ask myself, what am I doing to ensure neurodivergent individuals of all abilities can thrive?”
Ybarra’s passion for astronomy education doesn’t stop there. They are also the Director for the WVU Planetarium and Observatory where they continue to lead educational initiatives, engage the community through curated astronomy programs, and mentoring students in the WVU Physics and Astronomy program. On the research side, Ybarra’s interests include galactic star formation, protostellar outflows, physics education, and the history of astronomy.
“As an educator, I very often ask myself, what am I doing to ensure neurodivergent individuals of all abilities can thrive?”
Dr. Ybarra leads the Indigenous Skies Graduate Fellowship, which provides support for a graduate student to engage in self-directed Indigenous astronomy scholarship. The Fellowship is a partnership between the Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology and the WVU Planetarium and Observatory.
Holly Legleiter, Public Relations Coordinator
Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology, West Virginia University