Zachariah Milby

Zachariah Milby

Grad student in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences

Hometown: New Castle, CO

Date of this Interview: January 2, 2024

What do you research?

I am studying optical-wavelength aurora on the Galilean satellites which can reveal atmospheric composition and interaction with nearby space environments through remote telescope observations from Earth.

Why does space inspire you?

What I like about space is how egalitarian it can be. For the most part, it doesn't have the same territorial legacies that places on Earth have (with the exception of Cold War politics, I suppose). It feels to me like the one place we have left where have the potential to work together primarily as human beings interested in bettering humanity as a whole rather than national citizens trying to further political or economic doctrines. I think this idea is perfectly encapsulated in a story I recall reading about the Apollo 11 astronauts on their world tour after returning from the Moon. Everywhere they went, the general reaction of people was "we did it." Not "America did it" or "the West did it." I find that really incredible. There's an American flag on the surface of the Moon, but the world saw it as a human achievement first and foremost.

If you could instantly travel to any point in the universe, where would you choose to go?

I'd love to see what the Milky Way looks like from a few million light years away. We have these gorgeous pictures of Andromeda, but we only have artistic guesses for what our own galaxy looks like.

Where can you be found when you’re not conducting research?

My partner (an architect) and I are definitely city people, and LA is a lot of city to explore. One of our favorite LA activities is going out to movies at small, independent movie theaters (Vidiots in Eagle Rock is a particular favorite). We also enjoy traveling, both around California and the world when we get the opportunity. But for the most part, when I'm not conducting research, I am probably hanging out in my apartment playing my viola, reading a book (though since I started my PhD studies it's been mostly papers instead), or enjoying a coffee.

What book do you wish you could read for the first time again?

My favorite book of the past couple years has been "Bullsh*t Jobs: A Theory" by the sociologist David Graeber. I read the whole thing in a single night. It is an exceptional analysis of what's wrong with the working world today. But, unlike most other books like it, it offers a reasonable and objective solution to solve the problem. It's been a long time since a book has grabbed me the way this one did.