photo of Liz Landau on a fire escape in Brooklyn

Photo: Justin Goldner

1984 An eccentric red-haired baby was born.

1986 Watched “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” hosted by Carl Sagan, according to parents. The memory has faded, but that must have been pretty awesome.

1986-1992 The quiet years. Listened a lot. Learned to read.

1992 Decided being super shy was counterproductive and became more talkative.

1996 Signed on to American Online for the first time. THE INTERNET!

1997 Taught self HTML, memorized a few dozen digits of pi, played Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet,” played text-base role-playing game GemStone III and tried to start a literary magazine on an America Online webpage.

Liz Landau standing on a stage with microphones at age 39, next to a photo of herself at age 11

Photo: Kiirstn Pagan

2001 Attended Harvard Summer School and made long-lasting friendships. Published editorial cartoons in the “Harvard Crimson” and a personal essay in the “Harvard Summer Review.” In the fall, took evening course at the University of Pennsylvania called Psychology and Religion through Young Scholars program.

2002a Took freshman seminar in psycholinguistics at the University of Pennsylvania while finishing senior year. Graduated from high school. Worked on study of grammar development in children in the lab of Dr. Kenneth Wexler at MIT, and enjoyed testing kids in day care centers around Boston. Saw Eminem in the Anger Management Tour.

2002b Arrived at Princeton University. Took writing seminar that ended with final project in which “The Prism,” a literary magazine celebrating diversity, was proposed. Found two collaborators to share editor-in-chief duties of “The Prism” and coined motto “dialogue, diversity, difference.” Admitted to the University Press Club.

2003 Took freshman seminar “Life on Mars! (Or Maybe Not)” from Michael Lemonick and learned science journalism could be a great career. Became campus stringer for the Times of Trenton. Spent the summer in Pasadena, California, living in a Caltech dorm and interning at the Einstein Papers Project and the Pasadena Star News, commuting by a pink bike from Target.

2004 Attended University of Seville study abroad, learned to dance sevillanas. Joined Facebook when it was called “The Facebook.” Spent the summer interning at CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and CNN Español in New York. Became editor-in-chief of student science magazine “Innovation” while still managing “The Prism,” stringing for local papers and taking too many courses. Took influential Psychology of Decision Making and Judgment course from Daniel Kahneman and Eldar Shafir.

2005 Visited Athens, Greece, through Hellenic Studies seminar. Won second place in Princeton’s pi memorization content on March 14. Attended University of Leon summer study abroad. Researched senior thesis on legacy of the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492. Became fluent in Spanish.

2006 Wrote novel under advisor Joyce Carol Oates and anthropology thesis under advisor Isabelle Clark-Deces (who sadly died in June 2017). Took second place again in Princeton’s Pi Day competition. Enjoyed course taught by the famous Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

2006-2007 Attended Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, graduated with M.A. and won random scholarship to study Russian in Russia.

2007 Moved to Atlanta to become Master’s Fellow at, then moved back to New York to work for Dow Jones Newswires. Missed Atlanta the whole time.

2008 Worked at Law360 for six weeks. Moved back to Atlanta to work at CNN full-time. Promoted to Writer/Producer for CNN Health. Tried to learn Russian in Moscow, lost it upon return.

2009 Wrote songs for and performed in CNN band “Fact vs. Fiction.” Joined Twitter. Covered wide variety of medical and scientific topics for CNN.

2011 Launched the CNN Light Years blog.

2012 Played keyboard accompaniment for improv shows, took improv stage acting class, joined band “The Sweetdick Jane,” formed second group “The Southern Transplants.”

2013 Fulfilled dream of visiting the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, and wrote about it for CNN.

2014 Moved to Los Angeles to become press officer for technologies at NASA JPL. Started freelancing for various publications. Went to Germany twice on fellowships. Joined JPL band “The RTGs” and performed at JPL Communications holiday party at the Ice House.

2015 Took a sketch-writing class at Upright Citizens Brigade. Began volunteering at 826LA.

2016 Became press officer for astrophysics at JPL. Saw “Hamilton” on Broadway before Lin-Manuel Miranda left. Annoyed people by quoting “Hamilton” all year.

2017 Won an award for homemade strawberry pie on Pi Day at JPL. Joined JPL’s Cassini Virtual Singers (CVS) so “Hamilton” parody songs written by self could be sung. Saw total solar eclipse. Performed with RTGs and CVS.

2018 Began new role of Senior Storyteller at JPL in January. Spoke at OWN IT 2018 Summit at the University of Southern California. Led discussion at SoCal Science Writing Symposium at the University of California, Los Angeles. Performed “TRAPPIST-Wonderful Worlds” at exoplanet conference in Pasadena and a science comedy night in Washington, D.C. Traveled to Spain, Poland and Lithuania. Helped produce JPL’s “On a Mission” podcast. Began temporary position at NASA HQ as press officer for astrophysics in Washington.

2019 Led NASA astrophysics communications during the government shutdown. Produced NASA’s “Gravity Assist” podcast. Performed at Open Mic Night at the American Astronomical Society conference in Seattle. Performed and spoke at Astronomy on Tap in Pasadena. Ate astronaut ice cream for the first time at Yuri’s Night. Went on speaking tour of eastern Australia and gave public talks about space and storytelling at:
• Australian National University, Canberra
• Queensland Museum, Brisbane
• Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville
• Townsville State High School
Performed at Astronomy on Tap and Science Comedy Night in DC. Honored with NASA Headquarters Honor Award and recognition from Best Shortform Science Writing for black hole image NASA story.

2020a Gave up bicoastal lifestyle and officially moved to Washington, D.C. Performed at multimedia comedy open mic night. Accepted a contractor position at NASA Headquarters as Senior Communications Specialist. Performed at Open Mic Night at the American Astronomical Society conference in Honolulu. Performed at Comedy Potluck in DC. Visited three famous ruins in Mexico.

2020b Entered quarantine mode on March 11. Launched podcast Pod Paper Scissors about game theory with Ben Klemens. Performed at virtual Earth Day Comedy Show. Finally made own YouTube Channel with original songs, including Queen of the Quarantine. Published articles for the first time in Gizmodo, Science, the Washington Post, and WIRED. Took Narrative Podcast class at NYU remotely. Spoke at the Online News Association conference. Spoke about antimatter on the What If: Discussed podcast. Spoke about science storytelling for the Adverse Camber “Gazing” virtual series. Performed at DC Science Comedy online in conjunction with the National Association of Science Writers conference. Visited Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

2021 Performed at Open Mic Night at the American Astronomical Society meeting (via Zoom). Spoke about GemStone III and other text adventures on the Video Game History Hour podcast. Invited as speaker on panel discussion about pitching stories at LingComm 21 conference about linguistics communication. Spoke to the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers about the lives of stars and planets. Visited incredibly beautiful places in Europe including L’Escala, Spain; Malcesine, Italy; and Tre Cime Nature Park, Italy. Spoke virtually at Expo 2020 Dubai Dignified Storytelling Event alongside astronauts Hazza Al Mansouri and Soichi Noguchi. Oversaw production of James Webb podcast mini-series and Spanish launch broadcast of James Webb telescope launch. Saw LCRD launch from Coca Beach and IXPE launch from media site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Supported English-language launch broadcast of Webb telescope launch, which has been viewed more than 8.5 million times on YouTube, from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

2022 Rang in the new year in San Diego. Tried skiing (terrifying) and snowshoeing (very fun) for first time as an adult near Salt Lake City. Spoke at Slow Swimming Club storytelling event for emergency medicine staff at England’s National Health Service. Spoke at Life on Mars! Or Maybe Not science journalism seminar at Princeton in person. Shared Webby Award for James Webb podcast mini-series with NASA Audio team. Met Keegan-Michael Key and Adam Scott at Webby Award ceremony in New York and danced at afterparty where Questlove was the DJ. Ate at the Condé Nast cafeteria. Spent a week in Istanbul then traveled to Tel Aviv, Sefad, and Jerusalem. Attended AAS summer meeting in Pasadena and performed “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” at karaoke in El Monte. Spoke as featured guest in Science! The Show in Santa Monica. Worked as graphics operator for the James Webb Space Telescope first images broadcast. Wrapped up NASA’s Gravity Assist podcast with this episode. Appeared in Nautilus Magazine video speaking about math and the brain. Spoke about yoga on the Weeks Well podcast. Attended ScienceWriters 2022 conference in Memphis and performed “Bruno” and “My Shot” from Hamilton at karaoke on Beale St. Camped at Annapolis Rock and revisited Harper’s Ferry during warm week in November. Spent six days in Iceland and saw the Northern Lights four nights in a row. Flew to Scandinavia and checked out Copenhagen, Malmö, and Lund. Unexpectedly spent Hanukkah in San Diego. Ended year at a “megahouse” party in DC.

2023 Reunited with science communicators at the AAS winter meeting in Seattle. Got Covid, likely at a Zumba class. Had bachelorette party in New York and sang showtunes until closing at Marie’s Crisis. Gave an Ignite Talk at the South by Southwest festival in Austin about NASA and sonifications, and a talk about the James Webb Space Telescope at the Austin library. Saw Kalush Orchestra live in Austin. Got married with cherry blossoms, got married by a rabbi, and danced to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” in one day. Went camping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and walked into a cactus in the dark. Spoke at the Euclid U.S. Science Meeting. Hosted a Twitter Spaces event for NASA about black holes that got more than 350,000 plays. Spoke on panel at NASA Headquarters for high school students interested in STEM careers. Spoke about the Webb Telescope at the Baltimore Library. Performed live at Story Collider at Smitty’s Bar in DC. Hosted Twitter Spaces about the dark universe. Stayed in a yurt in Virginia. Honeymooned in Japan: experienced onsens for the first time, toured Kyoto in a kimono, learned zazen and stayed overnight at Temple Daihonzan Eiheiji, hiked in Kamikochi, summited Mt. Fuji. Performed in Mortified! Back to School. Participated in NASA events for the asteroid Bennu sample return in Utah and the annular solar eclipse in Kerrville, TX. Joined Univision for multiple live hits about the eclipse on location. Appeared on the Story Collider Podcast. Hosted a virtual panel for the DC Science Writers Association featuring book authors David W. Brown and Jamie Green.

2024 Rang in the new year in Philadelphia and attended the Mummers Parade in person. Hosted an Instagram Live about the James Webb Space Telescope on Jan. 10. Performed at the Open Mic at the American Astronomical Society meeting in New Orleans. Featured on Radiolab podcast and associated viral X/Twitter thread about quasi-moon Zoozve, which released on my birthday. Spent birthday in New York with lots of dear friends and saw “Sleep No More” and “Merrily We Roll Along” in addition to joining a Broadway singalong at Marie’s Crisis and eating excellent food.

Liz Landau surrounded by flowers, speaking at a microphone

Photo by Lisa Helfert for Story Collider