What do you do?
I'm an astronomer - my goal is to learn about planets, both in our solar system and around other stars, to figure out what's out there and how all these planets were formed. In particular, I work on direct imaging, creating the instruments we need to actually take pictures of these planets and the protoplanetary disks that are forming them.
Why did you choose this field?
I read a book about astronomy when I was in middle school, and thought it was so fascinating! When I got to college, I started taking physics and astro classes, and liked how I could describe the world around me with this science. I also always loved sci-fi and the idea of actually finding out what other, real planets are like seemed so cool to me. Once I got far enough into astronomy as a career, I decided I liked the flexibility of being a scientist - you get to study what you're interested in learning about the world, and you also get to take time to share knowledge with other people through teaching, outreach, public speaking, writing, and more!
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I just recently got my master's degree and published my first scientific paper. I really had no clue how this all worked when I was in high school (I'm a first gen student) and it's so awesome to have gotten to the point where I can say I've learned enough to be a master!
Why do you love working in STEM?
I really love collaborating with people. That's the part that keeps me going, is working with other people on ideas we're excited about, whether that's a scientific idea, an outreach/writing project, a new course curriculum, or something else.
Best advice for next generation?
It's a little silly, but read lots of books! That's how I found what I liked and really got into it. Also, making connections with people is so important - scientists are humans first, and finding people you enjoy working with is crucial.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
I am learning every day to let the space between where I am and where I want to be inspire and not terrify me.