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Questions & Answers with Marc Kuchner

Physics Today chats with Marketing for Scientists author Marc Kuchner about science-marketing skeptics and his motivation as an author.

Marc Kuchner works on supercomputing projects related to direct imaging of extrasolar planetary systems at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. In 1994 he earned his bachelor's degree in astronomy and astrophysics from Harvard University, and in 2000 he received his PhD in astronomy at Caltech. In addition to his astronomy and astrophysics research, Kuchner composes original music and lyrics for country music artists. More recently, he's turned his attention to teaching scientists and the science community how to get and retain "jobs, funding, and influence." That's the focus of his new book, Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times, published earlier this year by Island Press. He also blogs about the topic at Physics Today recently caught up with Kuchner to discuss the book. PT: What motivated you to write this book? Kuchner: At first, it was the steady onslaught of insults to US science: climate-change denial, evolution denial, the decay of science education. Then the recession struck in 2008, and the number of job openings for postdocs in my field dropped by a factor of three.  My own postdocs and students were hurting.  I felt that I couldn't just scratch my chin and spout the same old anecdotal job-hunting advice that worked twenty years ago.  But after my experiences in the music business, marketing looked like a promising tool to help my students and colleagues win the jobs, funding, and influence we scientists need to keep doing what we love. PT: Did your experiences as a NASA scientist and as a commercial songwriter contribute differently to the formulation of your thesis? If so, how? Kuchner: Often, scientists enjoy a special privilege: We live in a bubble of friendly colleagues who feel compelled to listen to us and read our papers.  As a new country songwriter from New York, I quickly learned that most people don't have the privilege of an automatic audience. Overcoming that challenge taught me lessons I could offer scientists who are struggling to be heard, such as young scientists seeking jobs and more senior scientists who want to influence the public and the government. More at Physics Today.