Science & Tech

40 Women to Watch 2019: Munazza Alam is exploring planets in the far reaches of the universe

Munazza Alam

Munazza Alam is part of The Tempest’s 40 Women to Watch 2019, which spotlights extraordinary women and femmes making waves in their industries or passions of choice.

Munazza Alam is a National Geographic Young Explorer, and a current Harvard graduate student focused on astronomy & astrophysics.

Her focus is in studying exoplanets, their physical properties, and whether they contain the right chemical balances to support life. When she was growing up, her father supported her questions – no matter what they were. He recognized her desire to learn, and encouraged her instead of silencing her voice. In an interview with Spotlight Labs, Alam said that “this [was] really important to me, since I come from a culture where asking “why?” is looked down upon. As a child, I was often reprimanded by others for asking such questions. But I never lost the habit, and it’s exactly that question of “why?” that drives my research today.”

She also mentors students, encouraging girls, in particular, to pursue careers as scientists. She was raised Muslim and says, “Faith is an important part of my life. It’s a defining characteristic that makes my identity unique, and I want people to know.” At the end of the day, her long-term goal is “to characterize the atmospheres of the first Earthlike planets.”