The secret lives of our profs

Naveed Islam

At the age of twelve, Megan Pickett discovered the constellations in H.A. Rey’s “The Stars: A New Way To See Them,” a book given to her by her brother. Rey’s constellation diagrams, which resemble cartoon-like depictions of the animals after which they were named, was revolutionary at the time the book was published. To the young Pickett, however, it “looked a lot like spaghetti.” Her early interest in Astronomy took her from her suburban home, to a PhD in Astrophysics from Indiana University, to NASA and finally to Room 105 Youngchild Hall.
After graduating from Mount Carmel High School in 1984, Pickett enrolled at Cornell University, class of 1988. While pursuing her Physics major, she also served as a cartoonist for the Cornell Lunatic, a campus humor magazine. Following Cornell and her PhD in Astrophysics, she joined NASA’s Ames Research Center. “It was a neat time for me,” says Pickett regarding her work at Ames.
However, teaching drew her back to university life, a life to which she was no stranger. Her father was President of St. John Fisher College at Rochester, NY and, having been exposed to the intellectual environment, she felt at home on campus.
Pickett was a visiting Professor at Valparaiso University for a year to learn the ropes before going to Purdue University Calumet in 2000 as an Associate Professor of Physics. Finally, in 2006, she moved to Appleton and became a member of the Lawrence faculty.
As Associate Professor of Physics at Lawrence, she is particularly interested in the Origin of the Solar System. Together with Marcia Bjornerud of the Geology Department and Ron Peck of LU’s Biology faculty, she is planning a new course that hopes to explore the origin of the Earth and of life, which has been one of the chief focuses of NASA’s research in recent years.
In her spare time, along with drawing cartoons, she also writes short stories. One of her pieces, entitled “Free,” will appear in an anthology called “Gendered Hearts” in April. Aside from drawing and writing she also enjoys playing World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero 3 with her children.
Staples in her book collection include David Sedaris and the “Cthulu” books. Her collection of stuffed Cthulu rests on her office table in Youngchild. She has also read Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel, “Watchmen,” which is getting the movie treatment in March of 2009. Having seen the trailer for the upcoming film, Professor Pickett admits that she is excited but cautions, “it could still suck.