What do you do?
I work on the Data Analytics team to help create and maintain software tools in order to collect, process and analyze usage data from millions of devices to help inform other teams about how to improve their systems. This usually means working on ways to extract information from big data sets. I am hoping to use these techniques in graduate school to use data science and machine learning tools for large-scale astronomical data sets.
Why did you choose this field?
I was always interested in space from a very early age; my favorite thing to watch was the NASA documentary "The Dream Is Alive" on VHS. But in grade school, the only space related concept we talked about was the Solar System, so I didn't know there were other areas of research.
When I was 13, I watched the movie "Contact" for the first time, and was instantly in awe. Like any good scientist, I started doing my research and tried to understand what they were talking about. I even started volunteering at my local observatory. Soon I knew I was meant to study astrophysics, and I was not going to let anyone tell me otherwise.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Graduating with an actual degree in astronomy was such a surreal experience for me. It had come after a time of a lot of life obstacles, and I wasn't sure I would be able to do it. There are so many things I wish could have been different, but the most positive piece of advice I could have given myself long ago would be to surround yourself with people who make you feel empowered and supported, and to not worry about the things you can't control- only the things you have the power to. You can have role models to look up to, but don't spend time being envious of someone. You're every bit as important too.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love that there is so much still unknown in astrophysics. I don't think any astronomer will ever wake up one day and say, "Well, I've learned all there is to know." There are also so many skills that STEM can teach you in your personal life as well. I think working towards answers to who we are, where do we come from, and where are we going, give me purpose every single day. Who wouldn't want to be a part of something that profound? We have a limited time to live, and I want to learn as much as possible in that time.
Best advice for next generation?
There is not a problem with girls being inspired by STEM- the problem is retention. There will (unfortunately) likely come a time when someone or something tries to come in the way of you and your goals. Do NOT let people make you believe you are less than you are. You are wanted and needed in this field. Surround yourself with people who make you feel empowered and supported, and don't pass up opportunities because you believe you are not worthy. And if you are privileged enough to be in a role of influence, work to help fellow females and minorities feel more included too.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” - Carl Sagan