EPO Colloquium: Marc Kuchner

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Most scientists know all too well that they must market themselves. But the usual education of a scientist does little to teach us about the powerful tools business professionals use to win support for their ideas. Even the word "marketing" is often seen as taboo. This talk aims to break the taboos and introduce scientists to the fundamental techniques from the business world that matter most to them, like sales, branding and relationship building. It uses examples from Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and Barak Obama to show that marketing can be a positive, even healing force that can help scientists get their ideas across while building the outstanding reputations they need.


Marc Kuchner is an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a country songwriter. He is the co-inventor of the band-limited coronagraph, a tool for finding planets around other stars that will be part of the James Webb Space Telescope. He is also known for his work on planets with exotic chemistries: ocean planets, helium planets, and carbon planets.

Kuchner took a year off from graduate school to intern in a Los Angeles recording studio that turned out to be a hotbed of country music. Since then, Kuchner has devoted much of his spare time to writing county songs in Nashville, TN. During these adventures in the music business, he developed an interest in marketing and realized that he could apply what he was learning in Nashville to help scientists. He enlisted the help of a few hundred of his colleagues to try to piece together a new picture of how good marketing and good science can go hand in hand. The result is Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times, published by Island Press in November 2011.

Kuchner received his bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard and his Ph.D. in astronomy from Caltech. He was awarded the 2009 SPIE early career achievement award for his work on coronagraphy. He has contributed to more than 100 research papers and published articles in journals including the Astrophysical Journal, Nature, and Astrobiology. He appears as an expert commentator in the Emmy nominated National Geographic television show "Alien Earths" and frequently writes articles in Astronomy Magazine.