PSD April Spotlight: Galen Tsongas

April 21, 2023

PSD’s April spotlight is Galen Tsongas, Event Administrator for Astronomy and Astrophysics, and KICP. Galen joined the PSD on February 1, 2023, to plan, organize, and execute events within KICP and A&A.

We interviewed Galen about his interests and experiences below.

Where are you from?  
San Francisco, CA 

What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community? 
The environment of inclusivity and acceptance that permeates the culture of PSD at all levels. I feel comfortable here. 

Tell us a bit about you. 
I grew up performing in a drag/Grand Guignol theater in San Francisco (once in NYC) between the ages of 13-21, and up came of age in a miasma of countercultural circles: from the punk scene, to drag, to the beats. I took this diverse background, centered in inclusion and human-centered approaches to life, and lived in the Ecuadorian Amazon after high school and joined the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa after finishing my BA at UC Berkeley. Both experiences centered on cultural exchange and sustainable agriculture. Most recently, I finished my MA in International Relations (at UChicago) where I conducted fieldwork in Ecuador on the Indigenous social movements with the Kichwa community I lived in in 2012, and decolonizing approaches to scholarship. I’m working on publishing that while working on a book of my own poetry! 

Who inspires you? 
Every mother who has held the strings of a complex and unrelenting life together and held their children up above the raging waters below. Anyone who wakes up when they don’t want to. Anyone who trudges through life despite the Sisyphean task of doing so because sometimes heroes are the people who stare back at you in the mirror. 

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now? 
I am hoping to co-lead an outreach event (or many) in the future that engages the public through science communication (specifically, Astrophysics). Science is cool, but sometimes inaccessible to the general public – my aim is to bridge part of this gap on a small, local level within the city of Chicago and the Hyde Park neighborhood. 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you? 
Breaking down the walls and spaces traditionally dominated by white society because everyone should be valued by their merits rather than judged by their race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other socially constructed (arbitrary) characteristics. 

Who had the most influence on you growing up? 
My dad, who instilled in me the value of raising a ruckus and questioning power structures where inequality is used to uphold them. I also gained an appreciation for rocky road ice cream for which I am eternally grateful... not least because it is the one ice cream I do not have to share with my partner! Thanks, dad!  

What three words best describe you? 
Demiurgic. Scientific. Atypical. 

If they made a movie about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you? 
Ha! It would probably be a David Lynch film, and therefore the role of Galen could plausibly be played by an inorganic simulacrum. Though, I wouldn’t mind seeing the up-and-coming young actor, Vin Diesel, play me – his breakout role as Groot really sold me on his ability to compellingly represent my affable nature. 


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