Beyond Curie—a design project celebrating women in STEM
They changed history and the world often without recogntiion
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Wanda Diaz Merced

The astronomer who hears stars

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Wanda Díaz Merced is a Puerto-Rican astronomer best known for using sonification to turn large data sets into audible sound. She currently works at the South African observatory’s Office of Astronomy for Development leading the project AstroSense.

When Wanda Díaz Merced lost her sight in her early 20s, her dreams of studying stars in the visually oriented scientific world suffered a major setback -- until she discovered “sonification,” a way to turn huge data sets into audible sound using pitch, duration and other properties. Merced realized that she could use her ears to detect patterns in stellar radio data, and could uncover connections obscured by graphs and visual representation.

While working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Merced’s sonifications inspired musician and researcher Gerhard Sonnert to create X-Ray Hydra, an album of oddly jazzy music based on her audio representations.