In her work, Elizabeth Tammi has found the perfect pairing of her skills in storytelling and her interest in space. The Mercer alumna, who double-majored in journalism and creative writing and was a Stamps Scholar, has worked for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for two years.
As the social media lead for Hubble Space Telescope missions, she manages all content for the @nasahubble Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. Her job duties include writing social media posts and coordinating visuals, hosting and writing scripts for live streams, reviewing news releases for clarity, and conducting public outreach.
Tammi collaborates often with teams for other NASA departments, including the Astrophysics Project Division, for which she helps with internal science communications and website management. Most of her work has been remote so far, but she recently made the move to the Washington, D.C., metro area and is starting to do in-person assignments and public outreach events.
“It’s really fun, and I definitely learn a lot because I do not come from a science background at all,” she said. “We want to get people excited about the Hubble mission and what the Hubble mission does, and I like trying to be that translator.”
Tammi has always had an interest in space. She grew up near Florida’s space coast and saw some of the last shuttle launches. And while her academic pursuits focused on storytelling, she had a pipe dream of finding a job where those skills could combine with her love of space.
“I’m so glad that I’ve found this position that melds those interests perfectly, where I’m able to bring a unique perspective to NASA with my creative writing and journalism background,” she said.
Hubble, which launched into space in 1990, orbits just above the Earth’s atmosphere, providing a crystal clear view of space. Having made over 1.5 million observations and been cited in 18,000 papers, Hubble could be considered NASA’s most scientifically productive mission to date, Tammi said.
“Hubble is the NASA mission that changed everything we know about the universe, which sounds dramatic, but it’s true,” she said. “Hubble for over 30 years now has been getting these incredible images and observations that have taught us about everything from black holes to dark matter and rewrote all the astronomy textbooks.”
Tammi figures out how to best present Hubble’s latest news and discoveries to the general public. She highlights information that she thinks people would find most interesting and breaks it down in an understandable and meaningful way.
“I’m learning things alongside the public, in a way, about all these discoveries,” she said. “It’s never boring and endlessly fascinating. It never hurts that I get to work with this amazing imagery all the time. The people I work with are really smart and creative, and I absolutely love getting to help bring the Hubble mission to the public.”
Tammi said Mercer was fundamental in preparing her for the role she is in now. Her education was hands-on and experience driven, which helped her understand the fundamentals of multimedia production, learn how to tackle a variety of communications assignments, build her portfolio and gain critical internship opportunities.
An internship with Macon’s NPR affiliate paved the way for Tammi to intern with NASA Goddard in the metro D.C. area in summer 2019, and she was able to continue that work remotely as a senior. She contributed to NASA Goddard’s oral history campaign on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the first season of “NASA’s Curious Universe” podcast. She also was able to take an astronomy course at Mercer, which helped push her toward a career with NASA.
“I count myself extremely lucky that I ended up here,” Tammi said. “It’s a huge honor for sure to be part of such a historic mission with such a cool agency. I try to remind myself of that all the time. It’s definitely a dream come true.”
Tammi said working for such a prominent employer still feels a little surreal, but it has been amazing. She plans to remain at NASA as long as they’ll have her. Long term, she hopes to stay in the career realm of science communications and continue to have a hands-on role in sharing ground-breaking discoveries.
In her spare time, Tammi turns to longer-format writing. She published her debut novel, “Outrun the Wind,” in 2018 and “The Weight of a Soul” in 2019. Since then, she has signed with a literary agent and is exploring other genres. She hopes to publish more books in the future.