These people are unapologetic nerds — passionate about highly technical fields and not afraid to show it. How do they communicate that to people who don’t understand the thing they love? And in a broader culture where that word is not always seen as positive, how did they come to embrace their nerd status? Featuring astrophysicist Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Star Wars maker Chris Lee and computer programmer (and late nerd bloomer) Morley Bankston.
Kelly Holley-Bockelmann is an associate professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt University, where she researches computational galaxy dynamics, black holes of all sorts and gravitational waves. She is a recipient of a Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation, and her work has also been supported by NASA. As a first-generation college graduate within a family that sometimes lived below the poverty level, Kelly has a deep interest in broadening the participation of women, minorities and first-generation college students in science. She is the co-director of the Fisk-to-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program.
Chris Lee has been creating costumes and props since 1977, the year that the
Star Wars franchise came into existence. He became one of the first stormtroopers in a
Star Wars costuming group, is a member of the R2 Builders Club and is currently constructing a full-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon. When not recreating the
Star Wars universe, Chris Lee creates interactive experiences for schools, libraries, science centers, and museums at Anode Inc. He is also the co-chair of the Nashville Mini Make Faire and a founding member of the nonprofit Make Nashville.
Morley Bankston is a Nashville-based senior application developer who adores building software and getting tangled in patterns. She spent much of her career as a trained architect until switching over to computer software in 2010. Morley passionately encourages women to consider science and engineering fields through mentorship and education. She now works for Lellyett & Rogers, a commercial printer and information management firm. She spends the majority of her free-time as a co-founder in a family owned startup, Sibling Labs.