April Jubett creates animations and videos to help explain Chandra’s discoveries in a visual way. Her work shows up most frequently as podcasts and short animations on the Chandra website.
I have always been interested in art and science, and the many connections between them. It started unconsciously, with a curiosity about the natural world around me and a fondness for drawing and trying to capture that world while learning more about it. When I found out that there are whole careers built on exploring the beauty and mystery of the universe, I thought, "Yeah, I can do that".
I got involved both in astronomy and animation/video editing very much by accident. I studied biology and art at Tufts University and in my junior year started looking for work as a Biological Illustrator. I was able to land an internship at the Wright Center for Science Education, a center based at Tufts that worked with science teachers to develop interdisciplinary curricula. I was lucky enough to get adopted by the staff at the Wright Center early on, and as an intern I worked on illustrations for posters and other projects. As I finished school, I began to work full-time as an illustrator for the Wright Center, but after a year, I was moved into the animation studio where video projects that helped fund the center were piling up.
One of those projects was a series of astronomical animations to be used in a public relations video to help explain a new NASA mission that was about to launch: the Chandra X-ray Observatory. I began to work on this series of animations and learned some necessary animation skills, as well as some of the basics of X-ray astronomy. I worked closely with the Education and Public Outreach team at the Chandra X-ray Center, and a few years (and another job) later, I went to work on animation and video with them full time, where I've been for the past ten years.
All of my animation and video skills have been acquired on the job and through informal education (workshops, seminars, books and articles, tips from people I've worked with over the years, etc.). I believe that this has been a valid education, though I highly recommend a formal education to others seeking a similar career. There's really no substitute for four years of the fundamentals for someone who knows exactly what they want to do, preferably followed with an internship to put the fundamentals into practice.
I've been lucky, sometimes just being in the right place at the right time and developing relationships with people who later would be in a position to hire me. Learning how to do something because I need to make it work for a project that someone else is expecting, well, it can be stressful at times, but it also seems to force me to learn and to keep adding skills to my bag of tricks. This kind of constant adjustment to the changing needs of our group works well for me. Whichever path you decide to follow, I think that as long as you surround yourself with the things and people that interest you, you'll end up doing something that you find fascinating as well.
-April Hobart, Chandra EPO