Kya Sorli
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Student Collaborator and Planetary Defense Researcher

Kya Sorli was raised in the ranching community of Red Lodge, Montana near the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. She realized early her love of space, along with her passions for policy, technology, and media. Kya’s commitment to excellence in the pursuit of these passions resulted in several prestigious awards, including being named Montana’s 2014 Presidential Scholar by the Obama Administration and a Robertson Leadership Scholarship at Duke University. As an accomplished astrophysicist, planetary defense researcher, and campaign fellow, she is acutely aware of the divide between science, policy and media—a divide she hopes to bridge.

As a recipient of one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships in the United States, Kya’s selection as a Robertson Scholar was based on her ability to become a transformational future leader. While at Duke, Kya studied physics, computer science, astronomy, Chinese, and creative writing; performed research; and graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors and high distinction. In addition to academics, Kya was active in a cappella and served as photography editor for RIVAL magazine.

Currently, Kya is actively involved with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Planetary Defense Group, researching mission data and computational modeling to develop methods for identification and mitigation of potential mass extinction events. This research, along with her previous work in astrobiology and comet science in Hawaii, has been published in peer-reviewed journals, presented at national conferences and fostered hands-on experience in policy and academia.

Recently, Kya was selected as a Campaign Fellow for the Montana Democratic Party. As one of the Tester Campaign’s most effective state volunteers, Kya was placed in charge of Stillwater County’s crucial get-out-the-vote effort. Additionally, Kya has extensive nonprofit sector experience, including work for the Appalachian nonprofit Appalshop and WMMT Radio, functioning as radio host, social media director, producer and external engagement officer.

Outside work, Kya enjoys learning languages, exploring the Montana outdoors, and working on her first novel. She plans to pursue her Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences at the University of Colorado–Boulder and work to enhance humanity’s understanding of our place in the universe. Most of all she seeks to combine her varied skill set to bridge the gaps between science, media and policy. In an age of division and miscommunication, leaders who can speak the disparate “languages” of all three areas and synthesize creative solutions are sorely needed. Kya hopes to fill that leadership void.