siaa_logo_blue Alison Peck

Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array

Santiago, Chile
Job Title: ALMA Deputy Project Scientist/Associate Scientist


She is an Astronomer: How long is it since you got your maximum academic degree?

Alison Peck: 10 years


SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?

AP: I have not felt that it was difficult for me to get a job or promotion, I have felt that it's all gone more quickly than I expected. I found something that I like, and I'm good at, and I've found myself somewhat in demand. So I've actually achieved a higher position than I expected to at this stage in my career. I cannot compare my progress to other women in my  institution as I've never been at the same site as other women, so I am not familiar enough with their career progress.


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

AP: In my current job at the Joint ALMA Observatory in Chile, there are no other women in astronomy or management positions.  This was also the case in my previous job at the Submillimeter Array, operated by the CfA.  The partner institutions funding ALMA, (NRAO, ESO and NAOJ), do have some women in fairly senior positions, but I don't know the statistics.


SIAA: What is your family status?

AP: I have a partner of 1.2 years, who finally lives in the same city as I do. In the past I have had a few longterm relationships, but all had some component of distance, as I am no more comfortable asking a partner to take a 'second choice' job than I would be in taking one myself. I have no children, but I am close to my parents and try to spend a couple of weeks with each of them every year.


SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work? 

AP: 8 - 10 -ish


SIAA: What would most help you advance your career? 

AP: I've been told that my appearance of confidence has helped to advance my career. It pays to act like you know what you're doing.


SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?

AP: The advice I would give is to simply stick with it and be confident in your own abilities.  We all want to quit sometimes, but that doesn't mean you should.  People will try to tell you that you won't get a job or that you will face prejudice -- they don't know you.  If you know what you want to do, just do it.  Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to famous people, male or female, and tell them what you want to do, even when you are a student.  Most of the 'old guys' enjoy talking to young astronomers and will happily give you advice, and if you stand out as being self-assured and well-spoken, they will remember you.  That helps when you are applying for jobs later. (But for goodness sake, don't flirt.)