PhD student, University of Texas
If you're curious or enjoy puzzles, you have the makings of a scientist. Constantly be asking questions.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
After completing general training in my subject (geology), I have chosen to continue in school to take some specialized courses and learn skills such as coding and particular programs, that will help me complete an independent research project over ~5 years, as well as develop other skills to build my CV! During this entire time I will have mentors and colleagues to help, support and guide me.
Day-to-day I am completing coursework and research. My research includes analysing satellite images of Mars to figure out how and when water carved rivers and lakes on the surface. Most of the time, I need to prepare these images and collect specific measurements, which I will then compare for different places on Mars, and with places on Earth.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
I was initially interested in a different field when I started university as an undergraduate. Then, I found out that I *didn't* enjoy the type of research (computers, 100% of the time) but that I *did* enjoy being outdoors collecting data from fieldwork. At the same time, my mentor at university was encouraging me to apply to internships and explore my interests. So, I tried out a summer research internship studying the moon. I enjoyed the work, but realized I enjoyed studying surfaces affected by water more than those affected by volcanoes. (Although I'm still very interested in both!). My mentor during that summer internship helped me find funding to attend a conference, and encouraged me to apply to a NASA internship - both of which only cemented my love of planetary geology more! Meeting many supportive people that were also very excited about the topic, and learning more about how to pursue it, was a huge turning point that really gave me the confidence to turn my dream into a reality and apply to graduate programs. I would definitely say that mentor was the most influential and supportive, but trying out lots of different things helped me realise that this is the field I want to work in.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
Attending my first conference in my field. It was in a different country, and I had to find grants to cover and organise a lot of my own transport and accommodation. I had to present my own research to experts in the field. I only knew of my mentor who was also going. I was so nervous and excited and had never dreamed it possible that I would be travelling across the world to present *my* *own* research.
At the conference, I was introduced to and met so many lovely people and by the end of the week was having lunch with 10 other students who were also there for the first time, whom I'm still friends or even work with! I met astronauts and experts in planetary geology from those who study Earth to Pluto and beyond. My research presentation was a success, and I secured my place at a NASA internship for the following summer. I'd never have thought it possible, even at the time!
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
I am so curious about the worlds around us, Venus, Earth, Mars, and others. There's so much we don't know - even about Earth - that I want to help figure out. Some of the information can help humanity, but it may help answer fundamental questions such as how did life originate? where? is it out there on another planet?
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
If you're curious or enjoy puzzles, you have the makings of a scientist. Constantly be asking questions, then go out there and read, listen and look to figure out the answers, but never expect to get there alone. Science is a collaboration! There are many scientists willing to help you figure out some questions or help with your career path.
INSPO / FUN FACT
"The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke it, question it and turn it inside out."