You're part of a legacy. There are people whose footsteps you're following, and people who are following you, and people who want to help you.
Physics is part of society, so being Black in physics is a lot like being Black everywhere else. A lot of the time, I’m the first Black physicist people have met. Similar to how we get marginalized in broader society, it comes with challenges. We are all natural problem solvers. Whether we’re tackling the micro- or macro-scale — concerning our own lives or the universe — we are all searching for meaning.
Greg Mosby has always been interested in the creative process, experimentation, and invention. He loves challenging problems that require resourcefulness and multidisciplinary thinking.
As a naturally curious kid, TV shows like NOVA instilled in him a love of math and inspired countless backyard chemistry experiments. These interests followed him to high school, where he excelled in chemistry and calculus and earned a spot at Yale University. After testing out of Yale’s introductory chemistry course, he knew he wanted to try something new, so he convinced the Dean to allow him to sit in on a physics course. The class scratched an itch and Greg got hooked on the fun of using math to explain and make predictions about the physical world.
But as one of only a few Black students in Yale’s physics classes, Greg felt isolated. Subconsciously, he felt like he needed to prove that he was good enough, that he deserved respect, and that he belonged. Unaware that other students had formed study groups for the more advanced physics courses, Greg struggled to do everything on his own. This led to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy.
Still, Greg persisted and the summer before his senior year of college, he participated in an astronomy research experience at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. It was at the Center for Astrophysics that an advisor introduced Greg to the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP).
Attending the NSBP conference the following year of college was life-changing for Greg. For the first time, he saw hundreds of Black and Brown physicists just like him in community with each other and it helped him finally feel like he belonged. The experience expanded his worldview and gave him a sense of relief, belonging, and renewed confidence. He now knew that he was part of a legacy, and there were Black scientists whose footsteps he could follow and whose support he could rely on. He learned the importance of solidarity and forging alliances to make progress.
Back at Yale, Greg changed his workstyle and mindset. He joined study groups and decided to focus less on how other people were perceiving him, and more on what he could do to become a better person and scientist. Though still aware that he stood out, he realized that he was just as entitled to his education as every other student, and stopped policing himself to make the people around him more comfortable.
He greatly enjoyed his observational astronomy experience but still wanted to do hands-on experimentation, so his advisor for the project introduced him to the field of astronomy instrumentation. From there, Greg was off to the races. He pursued a Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he worked on analyzing low signal-to-noise spectra of quasar host galaxies and near-infrared detector optimization for the Robert Stobie Spectrograph on the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). Then Greg received a postdoctoral fellowship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and in 2018 secured a permanent role in Goddard’s Astrophysics Science Division, where he helps solve a variety of interesting problems related to infrared sensors, astronomical instrumentation, and observational astronomy.
Greg is a member of the National Society of Black Physicists, the American Astronomical Society, the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), and the Edward A. Bouchet Honor Society.
As a Project Scientist for NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, Greg helped oversee the production of the wide-field imaging instrument’s sensors and currently assists with tests of the fully integrated instrument. The Roman Space Telescope’s 300-megapixel Wide Field Instrument will help astronomers explore some of the greatest mysteries of the cosmos, including why the expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating.
On the observational side, Greg is interested in extra-galactic astronomy, particularly galaxy evolution. He works with students to use star formation histories to simulate what the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will see once active. He also continues to expand on the research he conducted for his doctoral thesis, examining an extremely red quasar with large outflow using the Hubble Space Telescope.
Greg’s interests extend beyond galaxies and quasars. He is an alto saxophonist who enjoys “noodling around” with other woodwinds, the piano, and the guitar. Music is his destresser and before the COVID-19 pandemic, he was a member of several bands. In his free time, he likes to exercise to his current favorite workout album—Janelle Monáe’s “The Age of Pleasure.”