Kim was working in molecular biology and public health when she was hired for NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in 1998.
Since she always wanted to be an astronaut when she was little, this opportunity got Kim close to the cosmos but without the long distance commute. Today, Kim uses data to tell stories about science, whether in the form of a 3D print of an exploded star, a book about light, or a Virtual Reality application for high-energy astrophysics.
Research & work
Kimberly Kowal Arcand is the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has its headquarters at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Arcand is an award-winning producer and director. She is a leading expert in studying the perception and comprehension of high-energy data visualization across the novice-expert spectrum. As a science data storyteller she combines her background in molecular biology and computer science with her current work in the fields of astronomy and physics. She was a nominated "Changemaker" for the White House State of Women Summit in 2016 and selected as a speaker for the U.S. Department of State Speaker Program in 2019.
Arcand has been the principal investigator for numerous NASA-funded programs as well as a project for the United Nations’ International Year of Light. Arcand presented her TEDx talk "How to hold a dead star in your hand" in April 2016. Arcand has been the recipient of group and individual awards from NASA and the Smithsonian. She was team lead in the development of the Chandra submission that won the Pirelli International award for science communication in Physics in 2007. She was principal investigator and co-chair for the “From Earth to the Universe” (FETTU) astronomical exhibition project that occurred in 1,000 locations across 70 countries (in 40 languages) from 2009-2011. FETTU was awarded the Mani Bhaumik Prize for Excellence in Astronomy Education and Public Outreach for which prize Arcand co-presented the keynote speech at the Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2010 Conference, in Cape Town, South Africa. She is principle researcher in the Aesthetics and Astronomy image response research project with international participation. Arcand has been an employee of the Smithsonian Institution since June 1998, and won the Smithsonian Achievement Award in 2016.
She co-wrote the non-fiction books “Your Ticket to the Universe: A Guide To Exploring the Cosmos,” Smithsonian Books (2013); "Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond," Black Dog & Leventhal/Hachette Book Group (2015); and "Coloring the Universe: An Insider's Guide to Making Spectacular Images of Space," University of Alaska press (2015). She co-authored a fourth book with Megan Watzke, "Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe," published in 2017 with Black Dog & Leventhal, which debuted on Amazon as a #1 New Release. Her latest co-authored book, “Light from the Void” will be published with Smithsonian Books in October of 2019.
A full CV of Kim’s work is below:
i. Professional Preparation
University of Otago, Ph.D./doctoral candidate, 2019 (expected)
Brown University, Public Humanities (image and meaning), M.A., 2013
Harvard University, Computer Science (graduate certification coursework), 2000-2002
University of Rhode Island, Biology (pre-med/parasitology & molecular bio) B.S., 1997
ii. Professional Appointments
1998-Present: Visualization Lead, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory/Chandra X-ray Center
1997-1999: Instructor, University of Rhode Island, Computer Science 101
1996-1998: Developer for Public Health project, University of Rhode Island Center for Vector-Borne Disease
iii. Books & Chapters
-Arcand, K.K., Tremblay, G., Watzke, M., "Light From the Void: Twenty Years of Discovery with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory," published by Smithsonian Books, October 2019.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., "Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe," illustrated by Katie Peek, published by Black Dog & Leventhal, November 2017
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., Rector, T. Levay, Z.G., DePasquale, J., Smarr, O. “Processing Color in Astronomical Imagery”, ch 4 in Photomediations: A Reader, edited by K.Kuc & J.Zylinska. ISBN: 978-1-78542-002-3. 2016.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., "Light: The Visible Spectrum & Beyond," published by Black Dog & Leventhal, October 2015
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., "Reaching new heights for women and X-ray astronomy," in More Passion for Science: Journeys Into the Unknown, published October 2015.
-Rector, T., Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., "Coloring the Universe: An Insider's Look at the Making of Space Images," published by University of Alaska press, November 2015.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., "Your Ticket to the Universe: A Guide to Exploring the Cosmos," published by Smithsonian Books, 2013.
-Arcand, K.K., Jubett, A., Watzke, M., Price, S., Williamson, K. T. S., Edmonds, P. "Touching the Stars: Improving NASA 3D Printed Data Sets with Blind and Visually Impaired Audiences." JCOM Science Communication Journal. July 2019.
-Arcand, K.K., Jiang, E., Price, S., Watzke, M., Sgouros, T., Edmonds, P., “Walking Through an Exploded Star: Rendering Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A into Virtual Reality”. Communicating Astronomy with the Public. Oct 2018.
-Smith, L.S., Arcand, K.K., Smith, B.K., Smith, R.K., Smith, J.K., Bookbinder, J., "Capturing the Many Faces of an Exploded Star: Communicating Complex and Evolving Astronomical Data," JCOM Science Communication Journal. Dec 2017.
-Arcand K., Watzke, M., DePasquale, J., Edmonds, P., "Bringing Cosmic Objects Down to Earth: An overview of 3D modeling and printing in astronomy" Communicating Astronomy with the Public. issue 22, p. 14. 2017.
-Arcand K., Watzke, M., "Pioneering Paths to the Universe" PanEuropean Networks: Science & Technology, issue 24, p128. 2017.
-Rector, T., Levay, Z., Frattare, L., Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M.,"The Aesthetics of Astrophysics: How to Make Appealing Color-Composite Images that Convey the Science" Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2017
-Smith, L.S., Arcand, K.K., Smith, B.K., Smith, R.K., Bookbinder, J., Smith, J.K., "Black Holes and Vacuum Cleaners: Using Metaphor, Relevance, and Inquiry in Labels for Space Images" Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts special issue on “Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts in Everyday Environments," 2017.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., "Launching Light: Beyond the Bulb, for the UN’s International Year of Light 2015" Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal, issue 18, p.12, 2015.
-DePasquale, J., Arcand K.K, Edmonds, P., "High Energy Vision: Processing X-rays" Vol 3, No 2, 2015.
-Smith, L.S., Smith, J.K, Arcand K.K, Smith, R.K, Bookbinder, J., "Aesthetics and Astronomy: How Labels Affect Understanding and Appreciating Deep Space Images," Curator, 2014.
-Smith, L. F., Arcand, K. K., Smith, J. K., Smith, R. K., Bookbinder, J. (2015). Is That Real? Understanding Astronomical Images. Journal of Media and Communication Studies, 7(5), 88 - 100.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., “Here, There & Everywhere: Science through Metaphor, Near and Far” Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal, issue 15, July 2014
-Smith, L.S., Arcand K.K, Smith, J.K, Smith, R.K, Bookbinder, J., Watzke, M. "Examining Perceptions Of Astronomy Images Across Mobile Platforms" JCOM Science Communication Journal. March 2014.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., Rector, T. Levay, Z.G., DePasquale, J., Smarr, O. “Processing Color in Astronomical Imagery”, Studies in Media and Communication, December 2013.
-Arcand, K.K. “Accessible Science” & “Bringing Science to the Masses.” International Innovation. July 2013.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., “From Earth to the Solar System: A Case Study for Public Science Events” Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal, issue 13, April 2013
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., Fletcher, J., Scalice, D., ““From Earth to the Solar System”: Public Science Exhibitions for NASA’s Year of the Solar System” Astronomical Society of the Pacific “Connecting People to Science” Vol. 457, 2012.
-Slane, P., Slane, R., Arcand, K.K., Lestition, K., Watzke, M. "STOP for Science! - A School-Wide Science
Enrichment Program" Astronomical Society of the Pacific “Connecting People to Science” Vol. 457 2012.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., “Creating Public Science with the From Earth to the Universe Project” Science
Communication. September 2011; 33 (3)
-Arcand, K. K.; Watzke, M.; Smith, L. F.; Smith, J. K. “The Aesthetics of Astronomy: Exploring the Public's
Perception of Astronomy Images and the Science Within” Astronomical Data Analysis Software and
Systems XX (ADASSXX) Evans,, I.N, Accomazzi, A., Mink, D.J. & Rots, A.H. (eds). Vol 442, p179-187.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., Smith, L, Smith, J.K "Surveying Aesthetics & Astronomy: A project exploring the
public’s perception of astronomy images and the science within" Communicating Astronomy with the Public. Issue 10 December 2010.
-Smith, L.S., Smith, J.K, Arcand K.K, Smith, R.K, Bookbinder, J., Keach, K. Aesthetics and Astronomy: Studying the public’s perception and understanding of imagery from space. Science Communication Journal.
-Arcand, K.K, Watzke, M., “Bringing the Universe to the Street: A Preliminary Look at Informal Learning
Implications for a Large-Scale Non-traditional Science Outreach Project”. JCOM Journal of Science
Communication. Vol 09, Issue 02, June 2010.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., De Pree, C., Exploring the Invisible Universe: A Tactile and Braille Exhibit of
Astronomical Images. Communicating Astronomy with the Public. Issue 8, pp 15-17, June 2010.
-Watzke, M., Arcand, K.K., “The Universe Brought Down to the Streets: The “From Earth to the Universe” Project”. Mercury magazine. Volume 39 #1. Spring 2010.
-Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., Connecting with our Universe: From Earth to the Universe. Spark: The AAS Education Newsletter, American Astronomical Society. 2010.
-Arcand, K.K., Lestition, K., Watzke, M., Steel, S, De Pree, C., The Invisible Universe: A Tactile and Braille Exhibit of Astronomical Images. American Astronomical Society. 2010.
-Arcand, K.K, Watzke, M, “On the Journey From Earth to the Universe”. Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal. pp10-13, November 2009.
-Watzke, M, Arcand, K.K, “From Earth to the Universe”: IYA2009 Cornerstone project, XXVIIth IAU General
Assembly conf. proceedings. 2009.
-Arcand K.K, Smith, L, Smith, J.K, Holterman Ten Hove, K. Watzke, M, Smith, R.K, Aesthetics and Astronomy, Astronomical Society of the Pacific conf. proceedings. 2009.
-Smith, L, Smith, J.K, Arcand K.K, Smith, R.K, Holterman Ten Hove, K. Aesthetics and Astronomy: How Experts and Novices Perceive Astronomical Images. American Psychological Association conf. proceedings. 2009.
-Arcand, K.K, Watzke, M, Bringing the Universe Down to Earth. Sky & Telescope’s Beautiful Universe 2009.
-Watzke, M, Arcand, K.K,, From Earth to the Universe: Bringing the beauty and science of astronomical images to the World. Mercury magazine. 2008.
-Arcand, K.K, Watzke, M, & Christensen L.L, From Earth to the Universe: Image Exhibitions in the
International Year of Astronomy 2009. Communicating Astronomy with the Public. 2008
-Arcand, K.K, Watzke, M, Christensen L.L, Zoulias, M, The Universe from Earth: A Cornerstone for the IYA2009. Communicating Astronomy with the Public. 2007.
v. Selected Honors (group & individual):
Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, 2019
17 Who Made a Difference in 2017, GoLocalProvidence, 2017
Smithsonian Institution Achievement Award, 2016
Nominated Changemaker, White House State of Women Summit, 2016
RI PBN "Woman to Watch" Award, 2015
Tech Collective’s RI Tech10 Award, 2014
Outstanding Alumni Recognition, Scituate RI, 2014
Rhode Island Providence Business News (PBN) “40 Under 40” Award, 2013
Pixie Award, Platinum, “Here, There & Everywhere” video (2012)
Pixie Award, Platinum, “From Earth to the Solar System” trailer, and “Hidden Baby Black Hole” animation (2011)
Mani Bhaumik Prize for Excellence in Astronomy Education and Public Outreach & Communicating Astronomy
with the Public 2010 Conference Keynote speech (2010)
16th Annual Communicator Award of Distinction, “The Extraordinary Universe” (2010)
14th Annual Webby Award Official Honoree, “The Extraordinary Universe” (2010)
15th Annual Communicator Award for “The Beautiful Universe” (2009)
Aegis Award for science podcast “Truth & Lies About Black Holes” (2008)
Pirelli International Award for Science Communication in Physics (2007)
Smithsonian Institution Special Recognition Award (2000, 2001, 2002)
University of Rhode Island Award for Outstanding Intellectual Property Invention:
"Ticks Attack...Don't Get Bitten" (2001)
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Science Educator of the Year (2000)
NASA Outstanding Group Achievement Award (2000)
Aquila Biopharmaceuticals 1997 Public Health Fellowship, RI PHP(1997)
vi. Selected Activities:
Editorial Board Member, IAU CAPJournal, 2019-
Advisory Board Member, Society for Women in Space Exploration, 2019-
Executive Board Member, Tech Collective, 2017-;
Member, Tech Collective, 2015-; Women in Tech Committee, 2016-; Advisory Council, 2016.
Member, AUI-NRAO Advisory Board, 2016-
Member, Federally Employed Women, 2015-; Vice President, 2016-20
Member, RI STEAM Now Coalition, 2015-
Executive Board Member, RIMOSA (RI Museum of Science & Art), 2014-
Alum, Leadership RI, 2014 (Kappa II); Mu II Program Committee, 2016. Advisory Cabinet 2018.
Principal Investigator, “Light: Beyond the Bulb” SPIE-funded project, 2015-
Member, IAU; Commission 55: Communicating Astronomy with the Public,
Steering Committee for IAU Division C, 2012-2015;
IAU Commission C1 WG3 Astronomy for Equity & Inclusion 2016-
IAU Working Group ‘Cosmic Light’, International Year of Light 2014-
Judge, MIT “The Art of Astrophysics” competition, 2014, 2016
Judge, Photo Nightscape Awards, 2014
Committee Member/Mentor, RI Million Women Mentors, 2014-
Member, Association of RI Authors (ARIA), 2013-2017
Member, FabFems, National Girls Collaborative Project, 2013-
Member/Judge, International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (Webby Awards), 2013-
Member, Accessible Astronomy for Global Astronomy Month/Astronomers Without Borders, 2012-
Principal Investigator, “Here, There & Everywhere” NASA-funded project, 2011-
Principal Investigator & Team Collaborator, “From Earth to the Solar System” exhibition project, 2011-
Member, Microsoft World Wide Telescope Ambassadors Advisory Board (Harvard), 2010-
Member/Judge, Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (formerly IAVA), 2009-
Member, Smithsonian Digitization Strategic Plan Committee, Marketing Working Group, 2009
Project Coordinator, Exhibit of Chandra Images, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2008
Co-Chair, IAU’s IYA2009 Cornerstone Project “From Earth to the Universe”, 2007-
Creator/Director, “8 Years of Science with Chandra: An Exhibition” Huntsville Art Museum, 2007
Creator/Co-Chair, Visualizing Astronomy at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 2007-2009
Creator/Co-Chair, 6 Years of Chandra Visualization Workshop, 2005
vii. Selected Speaking Engagements & Conferences:
Invited Speaker, World Science Festival, NYC. May 2019
Keynote Speaker, American Heart Association, S.New England, PVD. April 2019.
Invited Speaker, Explorer's Club, NYC. Oct 2018.
Invited Speaker, Intrepid Museum, NYC. Sept 2018.
Featured Speaker, Blue Origin, Space Forum, WA. Aug 2018.
Featured Speaker, JPL, Women in STEM, June 2018.
Guest Speaker, Red Sox STEM Day, Jumbotron. May 2018.
Guest Seminar, American Museum of Natural History, NYC. April 2018.
Plenary Speaker, DC Science Writers Association. DC. April 2018.
Guest Speaker, USA Science & Engineering Festival/NASA Hyperwall. DC. April 2018.
Invited Speaker, Library of Congress, Imagining the Extraordinary. DC. March 2018.
Invited Speaker & book signing, Brown University, Providence, RI March 2018.
Speaker, NASA Hyperwall; Data Visualization session, AAS, DC. Jan 2018
Invited Speaker, Harvard-Smithsonian Ctr. for Astrophysics Public Obs. Night, Cambridge, MA. Nov 2017
Invited Speaker, Renaissance Weekend, Boston, MA "Stories of the Universe in 3D," Oct 2017
Speaker, United Nations Expert Meeting on Space for Women, Office for Outer Space Affairs, NYC, Oct 2017
Invited Speaker, Columbia State College, "Coloring the Universe," Sept 2017
Invited Speaker, South Carolina State/Dept. of Natural Resources, "Shadows & Light," August 2017
Invited Speaker, Federally Employed Women Regional Training Program, "Women in STEM", April 2017
Invited Speaker, Boston Museum of Science, "Beyond the Telescope" Boston MA, April 2017
Invited Speaker, Columbia University, "How to Hold a Dead Star," NYC, Dec 2016
Invited Speaker, Cambridge Science Festival/Harvard Art Museums, "Aesthetics of Astronomy," April 2016
Invited Speaker, TEDx Providence, Providence RI, April 2016
Keynote Speaker, GRRLTech, University of RI, RI, March 2016
Invited Speaker, Harvard Art Museums, "Coloring the Universe," Cambridge, MA, 2016
Invited Speaker, Science on the Hill/Congressional Visits, Washington, D.C., 2015
Opening Remarks for Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson's national speaking tour, Providence, RI, 2015
Panel Convenor, Making Science Public Conf, “Science Comm. in Everyday Situations,” Nottingham, UK, 2013
Invited Speaker, Leiden Univ. “Spanning the Spectrum: Public Science,” Netherlands, 2012
Speaker, European Planetary Science Congress 2012, “From Earth to the Solar System,” Madrid, Spain, 2012
Guest Lecturer, Brown University “Evaluating Informal Science,” 2012
Poster Presenter, Public Comm. of Science & Technology, “Aesthetics & Astronomy,” Florence, Italy, 2012
Panelist, Brown University “Careers in the Common Good Community,” 2011
Speaker, Brown University “Making Choices: Ethics of Science,” 2011
Invited Speaker, Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems, 2010
Speaker, Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting, Portugal, 2010
Keynote, IAU Communicating Astronomy with the Public, Cape Town, South Africa, 2010
Invited Speaker, American Astronomical Society, Washington, D.C. 2010
Presenter, Astronomy Visualization Symposium, San Francisco, CA, 2009
Invited Exhibitor, IAU International Year of Astronomy 2009, Paris, France, 2009
Presenter, IAU Communicating Astronomy with the Public, Athens, Greece, 2007
viii. Selected/Recent Popular science writing: