Dr Athena Coustenis studied English literature because her father wanted her to study something that would ensure a job in case she couldn’t find work as a physicist. Towards the end of her studies, she met Daniel Gautier, who worked at the Paris Observatory. He was the first scientist to whom Athena Coustenis proposed to work on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.
“When I announced to my parents that I wanted to be an astronomer, they tried to convince me otherwise. Eventually, my father left me to pursue my hobby, provided that I also studied English literature in order to have some financial security.”
She studied simultaneously at Pierre et Marie Curie Vi and Sorbonne III, she did her master’s degrees in Astrophysics and English Literature and in 1989 she finished a PhD in Astrophysics and Space Technology.
The Greek scientist was born in Athens and studied in France where she received her PhD. At the moment she is the research director at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and an astrophysicist for the Paris Observatory. Furthermore, she also works with the European Space Agency (ESA), and NASA. Recently, she co-authored two books on Titan.
With her involvement with Saturn’s satellites and specifically Titan, she recently won international distinction. She was awarded by the American Astronomical Society with the “Harold Masursky Award” for her “special contribution to planetary science and exploration.”