Wanda Díaz-Merced

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Wanda Díaz-Merced
CitizenshipUnited States
Scientific career
InstitutionsEuropean Gravitational Observatory
ThesisSound for the exploration of space physics data (2013)
Doctoral advisorStephen Brewster

Wanda Díaz-Merced is an astronomer best known for using sonification to turn large data sets into audible sound.[2][3][4][5] She currently works at the GravitationalObservatory Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) leading the project AstroSense.[6] As someone who has lost their eyesight, she is a leader in increasing equality of access to astronomy and using audible sound to study astrophysical data.[7] Wanda has been included in the list of the 7 most trailblazing women in science by the BBC.[8]

Early life[edit]

Díaz-Merced was born in Gurabo, a small remote town in Puerto Rico. Both Diaz-Merced and her sister had physical disabilities, and had to learn to overcome the challenges that brings. As children, the two of them would pretend to fly a space craft and explore other galaxies.[1]

In middle school she entered the school science fair where she won second place. This was a turning point for her as this made her realize that pursuing a career in science was something that might be attainable.[1][6]

Díaz-Merced lost her sight in her early 20s and found new ways to study stellar radiation without relying on her vision. She realized that she could use her ears to detect patterns in stellar radio data that could potentially be obscured in visual and graphical representation.[9]


Díaz-Merced attended Matías González García Middle School and Dra. Conchita Cuevas High School in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.[10] She then went on to study physics at the University of Puerto Rico.[11] She received an internship with the Robert Candey at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, USA after she finished her undergraduate degree.[7] She went on to receive a doctorate in computer science from the University of Glasgow in 2013, where she studied space data analysis.[12] She was then accepted as a post-doctoral fellow at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town[4] and Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.[7]

Scientific career[edit]

In 2020, Díaz-Merced accepted a simultaneous collaboration with the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the European Gravitational Observatory proposal REINFORCE.[13] Before this, she worked at the National Astronomical Observatory Japan (NAOJ) , and the South African observatory's Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). She has led the OAD project AstroSense since April 2014.[6][14] She worked on the technique after she lost her sight as an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico.[15][11] In 2016, she gave a TED Talk in Vancouver, BC, Canada.[16] She is a member of the International Astronomical Union.[17] While working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, she collaborated with Gerhard Sonnert on a music album based on her audio representations.[2] Composed by Volkmar Studtrucker, "X-Ray Hydra" includes nine pieces of music derived from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory rendered as sound.[18][19]


In 2011, Diaz-Merced won one of Google's first annual European Scholarship for Students with Disabilities. This scholarship recognizes outstanding Ph.D. students doing exceptional research in the field of computer science.[20]

In 2017 she was awarded an Estrella Luike trophy.[21]

In 2019, she co-chaired the Astronomy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan conference.[7]

Published Works[edit]

  • Paice, J. A.; Gandhi, P.; Charles, P. A.; et al. (September 2019). "Puzzling blue dips in the black hole candidate Swift J1357.2-0933, from ULTRACAM, SALT, ATCA, Swift, and NuSTAR". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 488 (1): 512–524. doi:10.1093/mnras/stz1613. ISSN 0035-8711.
  • Diaz-Merced, Wanda L.; Candey, Robert M.; Brickhouse, Nancy; Schneps, Matthew; Mannone, John C.; Brewster, Stephen; Kolenberg, Katrien (2011). "Sonification of Astronomical Data". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union. 7 (S285): 133–136. doi:10.1017/S1743921312000440. ISSN 1743-9213. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  • Garcia, Beatriz; Diaz-Merced, Wanda; Casado, Johanna; Cancio, Angel (2019). S. Deustua, K. Eastwood, I.L. ten Kate (eds.). "Evolving from xSonify: a new digital platform for sonorization". EPJ Web of Conferences. 200: 01013. doi:10.1051/epjconf/201920001013. ISSN 2100-014X.
  • Kurtz, S.; Hofner, P.; Vargas, C.; Diaz-Merced, W. (2001). "High resolution radio continuum observations of high mass star formation regions". In R. T. Schilizzi; S. N. Vogel; F. Paresce; M. S. Elvis (eds.). Galaxies and Their Constituents at the Highest Angular Resolutions. San Francisco: Astronomical Soc Pacific. pp. 280–281. ISBN 978-1-58381-066-8.
  • Diaz Merced, Wanda L. (2013). "Sound for the exploration of space physics data". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 2019-11-01. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Díaz-Merced, Wanda. "Making Astronomy Accessible for the Visually Impaired". Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 2020-07-12.


  1. ^ a b c Hendrix, Susan. "Summer Intern from Puerto Rico Has Sunny Perspective". Goddard Space Flight Center. NASA. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Wanda Diaz Merced: How Can We Hear The Stars?". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-10-04.
  3. ^ "Wanda Díaz, la astrofísica ciega de Puerto Rico que descubre los secretos del Universo escuchando las estrellas". BBC News (in Spanish). June 21, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Lisa (February 18, 2016). "Blind astrophysicist listens to the stars by turning data into sound". CBC News.
  5. ^ Hernández, Isaac (June 16, 2017). "La astrofísica ciega que escucha a las estrellas" (in Spanish). Grupo PRISA. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Simón, Yara (2016). "This Blind Boricua Astrophysicist Pioneered a Revolutionary Way to Study Stars Through Sound". Remezcla. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  7. ^ a b c d "Wanda Díaz-Merced | Royal Society". royalsociety.org. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  8. ^ "100 Women: Seven trailblazing women in science". BBC News. 2017-11-06. Retrieved 2020-10-14.
  9. ^ Merced, Wanda Diaz. "Wanda Diaz Merced | Speaker | TED". www.ted.com. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  10. ^ Gonzalez-Espada, Wilson Javier (2013-10-01). "Listening to the whispers from the stars". Ciencia Puerto Rico. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  11. ^ a b Hernández, Isaac (2017-06-16). "La astrofísica ciega que escucha a las estrellas". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  12. ^ Diaz Merced, Wanda L. (2013). "Sound for the exploration of space physics data - PhD thesis". University of Glasgow.
  13. ^ Gibney, Elizabeth (2020-06-03). "REINFORCE Project Handbook Including quality guidelines and ethical guidelines" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Goad, Angela (2016-09-13). "Wanda Diaz-Merced | Introductions Necessary". Introductions Necessary [podcast]. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  15. ^ Díaz-Merced, Wanda (September 22, 2014). "Making Astronomy Accessible for the Visually Impaired". Scientific American blog.
  16. ^ "How a blind astronomer found a way to hear the stars". TED. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  17. ^ Englard, Kit (2019-05-26). "Astronomer Wanda Diaz Merced Uses Physics and Technology to Expand Accessibility to the Universe". Femme De Chem. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  18. ^ "X-Ray Hydra - Volkmar Studtrucker". www.volkmar-studtrucker.de. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  19. ^ Sonnert, Gerhard (2012). "Star Songs: X-ray to Music". www.cfa.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  20. ^ "NASA - Summer Intern from Puerto Rico Has Sunny Perspective". www.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  21. ^ "Trofeo Estrella Luike a una invidente estudiosa de las constelaciones" (in Spanish). LUIKE Iberoamericana de Revistas. August 2, 2017. Retrieved May 9, 2018.

External links[edit]