Catherine McCarthy

Senior Project Manager / Informal Science Educator - Arizona State University Center for Innovation in Informal STEM Learning


Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

BS, Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering Technology

University of California Davis, CA

MS, Ecology - Environmental Planning and Policy

University of California Davis, CA

PhD, Ecology - Environmental Planning and Policy

Catherine McCarthy is part of NASA's Science Activation Program (SciAct). SciAct has projects and NASA teams across the U.S. that are helping learners of all ages do science!

What first sparked your interest in science, technology, engineering, and/or math?

Catherine McCarthy

Despite growing up in the big city of Brooklyn, NY, I was always interested in nature and the environment. As a child, my family encouraged me to observe the world around me – birds in the neighborhood, ants on the sidewalk, and leaves on street trees.

I pursued this interest and studied natural resources and environmental engineering in college. I went on to earn a Masters and PhD in ecology focusing on environmental policy and planning.

Before I joined the informal science education field, I worked for local government agencies and nonprofits in environmental management, solid waste, hazardous waste, and pollution prevention. I’ve been motivated by a strong desire to making the world a better place in terms of environmental quality. We all need clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, healthy food, and the opportunity to connect with our natural world.

What Science Activation project(s) are you affiliated with?

  • SciAct STEM Learning Ecosystems project
  • National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE Network)
  • Space and Earth Informal Science (SEISE) project
  • National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE Network)
  • Engaging Hispanic Communities project

Tell us about your job. What do you do?

Mostly I work with teams of professionals coordinating public engagement and professional learning projects on a variety of STEM topics. The National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE Network) is a community of informal educators and scientists dedicated to supporting learning about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) across the United States. We achieve our impact through our partner organizations, which include science centers, children’s museums, universities, and other similar institutions. NISE Network projects create educational materials, support professional learning, and build capacity through collaboration and networking.

What's one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in learning more about science?

Be curious and keep learning about things that interest you.

What is your favorite science image or visualization, and why?

I don’t have one favorite image, but I do enjoy looking at aerial photos of places I have been or want to go. Here is an image of the Finger Lakes region of New York State in May 2013.

Satellite view of a series of long lakes that look like fingers on a hand.
Terra satellite image of the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired whenever I see people doing hard work to make the world a better place for other people.

What are some fun facts about yourself?

I make it a priority to get outside appreciate the natural world.