Graduate student working towards a Ph.D. in Astronomy (defense in three months!)
Organization: University of Virginia
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always loved science, especially space. I had very encouraging high school science teachers that encouraged me to pursue a career in astronomy. At the time, I was really into the Mars Pathfinder lander. Also, I watched the movie “Contact” when it was in theatres and though, “wow, maybe I can be an astronomer, too!” Now I actually do radio astronomy!
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m currently working on a project where we are building a radio telescope array in South Africa. Traveling to a desert region for research was an excellent experience, and I enjoy seeing an instrument come together. In a way, I think it brings you closer to your data when you’ve helped put the telescope together.
Role models and heroes:
My mom always encouraged me to pursue my interests. She supported my voracious reading habit all through my childhood, and she helped me research the answers to all my “whys” in the days before Google.
Advice for future STEMinists?
Find good mentors and a support group throughout your career. Your mentors will help you discover the parts of being a scientist that cannot be taught in classes. Your support group will let you cry when your computer crashes.
Favorite website or app:
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Google+. The video hangouts have allowed a new level of interaction with other scientists and enthusiasts. (Plug! Check out the Weekly Space Hangout 1pm ET every Thursday)