Space influencer and science communicator Chloé Carrière saw society lose trust in science during the COVID pandemic. Formerly a physicist, space engineer, and ESA intern, Chloé has now founded a science communication company. Her mission is to fight misinformation by bringing clear, accessible science content to where the people are.
Miscommunication around the COVID vaccine eroded trust in science, Chloé Carrière observes. The public became even more suspicious every time the official recommendations and rules changed during the crisis. Yet this is exactly how science works, she reminds us: we should adjust our behavior and world view as we gain new information. We just need to get better at explaining that to the public. This is why Chloé works in science communication with her new company, Galactic Studios.
Chloé calls herself a space influencer – a rare moniker. We tend to think of face creams and luxury resorts when we hear the word “influencer”, but Chloé wants to reclaim the word and its literal meaning of someone who can influence others. Many people get their information from social media – and not from journalists sharing their stories, but from influencers. So we should introduce influencers who understand science and know how to talk about it in a positive way, she reasons. Europe can turn to the United States as an inspiration in accessible and popular science communication, Chloé adds.
“What do you remember from yesterday? Emotions.”
During her mere 20+ years of life, Chloé has already learned the art of pivoting. Born in France, she moved to Switzerland during her physics Bachelor studies. Chloé figured that astrophysics would bring her to space – a life goal of hers – but she struggled to finish her first year at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). Wisened by this experience, Chloé discovered that her Master’s in Management of Space Technologies was a much better fit, while still aligned with her dream. During her studies, she bagged a highly-coveted internship at the European Space Agency (ESA) – only to find the work environment unwelcoming to a young woman. Finally, she lay to rest her dream of becoming an astronaut, as a horrid domestic accident nearly cost her an eye and damaged her sight permanently.
Chloé has been very open about her career failures and personal crises. She believes in authenticity, and this attitude has also shaped her career. Chloé found her calling for science communication during her Master’s studies as Galactic Chloé. In her YouTube show, Chloé interviewed EPFL scientists, students, and administrators to present the human side of the university. This personal touch felt right to her.
Although science is about facts, we need emotions to reach people, Chloé asserts. “What do you remember from yesterday? How about from the last movie you saw, or even the last scientific conference you attended?”, she asks. The answer is: you remember how you felt.
The challenge of reaching people is also tangible: finding them in the first place. Having open doors at your university is not public outreach, Chloé underlines; only people already interested in science will show up. The obvious channels will reach people who are highly educated, who speak English, and who have above-average access to educational content. We need to talk to people also beyond this privileged circle, Chloé declares.
The original Galactic Chloé EPFL show was in English, but a lot of Chloé’s content today is in French. Culture goes even deeper than language, she notes from her own experience. France is a large country with one president, a celebrity culture that adores big stars, and a clear hierarchy. The smaller Switzerland boasts seven Federal Council members, one globally known tennis celebrity, and a lot of cooperation and consensus. Chloé’s authentic style suits Switzerland, she believes.
“In ten years, I hope we face challenges together instead of leaving them for the next generation”
In between her ESA internship and starting her own company, Chloé had one more go at finding her perfect job: she got an exciting permanent position in aerospace business development. Furthermore, she found out she was pregnant the same week she started her new job. When most pregnant women would hold on to secure employment with paid maternal leave, Chloé did the opposite and quit. She did not feel fulfilled in her new role, she explains. She wanted to give her unborn child an example of doing what feels right instead of settling for financial stability.
Chloé embraces uncertainty also when asked to make a prognosis about the world ten years in the future. “From one day to the next you find out you’re going to be a mother; from one day to the next you might lose an eye.” Space influencer was not a profession ten years ago, so who knows what will be possible ten years from now?
Chloé does have a wish, though: she wants people to stop talking about the challenges of the next generation. Instead, we should talk about tomorrow’s challenges that we all face together today. And there should be many more science influencers walking us through these hurdles.
This article is partially based on this podcast episode.