Bonnie Walters


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Hello!  I'm Bonnie.  I live in Southern California.  I am very blessed because I am able to do many things I love.

I was born in Seattle, Washington and moved with my family to Southern California when I was two years old.  I grew up 20 minutes from Disneyland!  We could see the Disneyland fireworks from our backyard!  I liked school and was a good student.

When I was 11 years old my Mom sent me to Japan to live with my grandmother for one year.  I spoke a little Japanese as I went to Japanese school for 4 years on Saturdays.  However, I was by no means fluent in the language.  My grandmother and grandfather lived at a beach resort named Tanezaki on the island of Shikoku.  I attended a half-day of middle school not really studying much but concentrating on learning Japanese.  It was a unique experience and by the time I came home I was fluent reading, writing, and speaking Japanese.  I even dreamed in Japanese!  That's when you know you mastered a language.  When I came home I found it difficult to switch into speaking English, have cars drive on the right side of the road, and wear shoes in the house.  Even though I was coming back into my own country, I still went through a "culture shock."  In Japan, everyone wore the same colors and essentially, to my eyes, looked similar.  Here, nothing was the same.  People looked different from each other, wore bright, multicolored clothes - it was confusing to the mind.  However, I adjusted after a few days, no worse for the wear.  It was an experience that has stayed with me forever.  I've been to Japan a total of seven times; some with family and some by myself.  I don't view it as a different culture but claim it as much as my American one.

While in junior high school I started singing in a chorus and loved it.  Music, both vocal and instrumental, has always been a part of my life.  I pursued music in high school singing not only in the chorus but also in their Madrigal group.  Madrigal music is sung without any accompaniment.  My two years with Madrigal's was the best ever.  We received the honor of being one of the top 15 groups in the country.  I still have a tape and cannot believe how professional we sounded.  My music teacher was a wonderful role model.  He was a superb musician, would always stop to speak with you and truly enjoyed kids.  I was privileged enough to spend some quality time with him two months prior to his death in 2000.  I miss him but all the things he taught me will be with me and I will pass to my children.  During college I sang two years with the Orange County Master Chorale.

I went to college at the University of California at Irvine.  I majored in Biological Sciences shooting for a career in veterinary medicine.  I love the sciences.  My emphasis was on comparative animal physiology and chemistry.  What a combination right?  I found learning about our organs and how our bodies work absolutely fascinating.  And chemistry ... well labs were great.  It was just like cooking.  You used recipes and "cooked" up all sorts of things.  Of course, there was a time we had a fire under the hood.  It really wasn't my fault...

One of my other favorite classes was Art History.  I know, it's about as far away from science as you can imagine.  Or is it?  Our professor had a way of transporting you back in time during his lectures.  You could imagine you were walking down the streets of Paris with the painter LaTrec, or even further back to the Egyptians as they celebrated the cycles of Life, and even further back than that.  When I go to art museums, and I do wherever I travel, I look at a piece of art and still can get glimpses of that dark lecture hall with his enthusiastic voice saying, "Look at that line, isn't it magnificent!?  Can't you feel what these people must have seen around them?" I can always see it.

During my last two years at UCI I worked on a research project at the UCI Medical Center.  We were studying methods of cooling down animals for heart surgery.  Some of the techniques we studied are in use today.  I graduated from UCI with honors in research and published in their journal.  My research boss recommended the new field of Respiratory Therapy for a career.  I checked it out and that's all it took.  I took to medicine like a duck to water!

I've been a Registered Respiratory Therapist since 1980.  As a respiratory therapist, I've worked in every area of the hospital.  Currently, I'm not working in the hospital but teaching.  I teach Advanced Cardiac Life Support to nurses, physicians and other health professionals.  It's a course meant to prepare the health care professional to take care of a patient or victim in the first 10 minutes of a heart attack or cardiac arrest.  I really miss working with the patients in the hospital but teaching is very rewarding.

I have three children ages 10, 8 and 5.  They are my full time job at the moment.  Everything else I do, I fit around their lives and their schedules.  I am very active in their school.  I work in their classrooms and am the Parent/Faculty Organization president.  I believe in taking an active part in their lives.

So what are the other things I do?  Well, I am involved with the American Heart Association and I am a representative to the local Medical Association's Executive Board.  I am also an amateur astronomer.  I love astronomy!  I have looked at the sky and wondered at the universe since I was a young girl.  My interests are planetary science/geology, astrobiology, and astrophotography.  To this end, I am an active member of our local Astronomical Society.  I've given a few talks to the group.  One was a presentation on Beginning Astrophotography.  It was quite a big step for me as I needed to get out and take slide shots myself with my own homemade tracker!  I am also a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Planetary Society, and a TeamSETI member through the SETI Institute.  All have superb web sites and educational outreach products.

This year I became a volunteer technical operator for the Telescopes in Education Project at Mt. Wilson, California.  That means I operate a 24 inch telescope!  The TIE project is where schools call in and remotely control the telescope for imaging (taking pictures) through the CCD (charged coupled device) camera.  The participating schools are K-12 and some students performed studies for their science fair projects.  As a technical operator, I have voice contact with the schools during their operating run, help with target choices for their images, give advice of exposure times, and give processing hints.  The galaxies and nebulas they image are so stunning.  No matter how many times I see the same object, it doesn't lose its beauty.  It's so fun speaking with the kids, too.  I've spoken with children from other countries as well as all over the United States.  There is one Japanese middle school that schedules frequent runs.  It will be 8:30 p.m. for us but 2:30 in the afternoon of the NEXT DAY for them!  They speak English with us and we have question and answer time as we wait for the images to download over the internet.  It gives me a chance to use my rusty Japanese.  It's such a thrill to be a part of the TIE project.

I'm also a new member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Solar System Ambassador Program.  The Solar System Ambassadors Program is a public outreach comprised of volunteers across the nation.  We bring the excitement of JPL's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in own local communities. There's nothing like being able to talk to people about the things you love.  I am so honored to be a member of this team!

Bonnie's Interview


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Last Updated:
18 February 2003

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