Erika Hamden, PhD

Erika Hamden, PhD

Assistant Professor, Astronomy
Assistant Astronomer, Steward Observatory
Portrait of Erika Hamden, PhD


A Guide to Inventing the Future

Saturday, March 11, 5:30 p.m.

Surround Stage

ERIKA'S TALK: A Guide to Inventing the Future

Watch Erika's talk on YOUTUBE:

What drives progress forward? How do we learn anything about the universe? Progress isn’t driven by lone geniuses toiling away in a lab. Progress isn’t the result of one brilliant idea, quickly and swiftly executed. Instead, it’s driven by new technology and by the imperfect, slow, and laborious work that goes into technology development. Historically, a new invention has always preceded new discoveries about the universe, but it’s nearly impossible to tell ahead of time what invention will be the thing that opens new windows to our understanding.


Dr. Erika Hamden is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona. She specializes in building telescopes that go into space and the stratosphere, and developing technology to make telescopes better. Erika is a leader in the field of space astrophysics, and has developed programs to teach early career scientists how to develop their own space missions. She is the deputy principal investigator of Aspera, a NASA orbiting telescope in development. She is a former chef, a TED Fellow, a AAAS If/then Ambassador, an aspiring astronaut, and is working on her pilots license.

Dr. Hamden has a PhD from Columbia University in Astrophysics and a bachelors from Harvard College in Astrophysics. She has developed ultraviolet technology, including detectors and dispersing gratings. She has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor the US government bestows on an early career scientist. She has also received several public achievement medals from NASA. She has an active social media presence, with thousands of followers on several platforms.