Kiara Jeannelle Gomez
PhD Candidate in Geological Sciences, University of Texas
Having exposure early on is important and lets you understand what path within STEM.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am a geoscientist who works on understanding the geochemical evolution of ancient oceans using sediment cores taken from the North Sea. I do this work using several tools, such as analyzing a tiny amount of samples inside a tiny mass spectrometer to obtain carbon isotopes and trace metals, looking at acquired seismic of my study area, and describing what I see in the sediment cores. My overarching goal is to understand the different processes that impacted my area during a time when Earth was hotter than it is today.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
I started to explore this field after taking a Natural Hazards course my first year, where I learned about using spatial analytical software called ArcGIS to understand the impact of natural hazards like volcanoes and flooding. The summer after my first year in college, I participated in a Marine Science Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Savannah State University, were I was exposed to a new world of science. This is where I found out how much I love the outdoors, water, and research. My school did not offer Marine Science as a major, but I realized that if I chose Geosciences I would be able to fuse all portions of science, including Marine Science! I decided to take more classes in Geosciences, and found my advisor who taught Invertebrate Paleontology. The enthusiasm and field aspect of this class ultimately sealed the deal to major in Geosciences. I have my mother to thank for her encouraging me to explore the beautiful world of science. She has always loved science herself and I would sit down with her reading a book about Human Biology and Anatomy.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
One of my biggest achievements is traveling the world to look at rocks and understand what happened in this part of the world thousands to millions of years ago. I wish the younger me would have known how inspiring the feeling of standing at a place today, and realizing that that same spot was most likely under water or had a huge forest or was a place where dinosaurs existed. We have the tools to understand snapshots of the ancient world!
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
There are many reasons why I love STEM. When I can work in the lab, I wake up excited and nervous about what I will find within my samples. What answers will I unlock today is what I think. When going to the field, each day I wake up amazed of where I am and happy that I can continue learning about Earth's processes. When explaining my project and trying to figure out what to say, I become frustrated then humbled by the amount of understanding I have. I then realize that this is what science is about: gaining a deep understanding of a particular subject, and then sharing your knowledge with the science community and the general public. Lastly, the opportunities I have to do outreach within schools is what I also look forward to.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
I really wish I could have seen people who were in STEM when I was growing up and going to school. I would tell all of the young girls in STEM to ask your teachers if your class can get a scientist, mathematician, engineer, etc to give a talk of what they do within your class. Having exposure early on is important and lets you understand what path within STEM. For high schoolers, attempt to have some exposure in science research or robotics (if you have access to this). That is one of the best ways to learn whether you like a particular field in science or technology.
INSPO / FUN FACT
"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity." - Mae Jemison