I’m not one of those people that always knew they wanted to be a scientist since they were a kid. I had no idea what to do with myself for a very long time. So, if that is you too, take heart: you can always change your mind about what you’re doing.
From 2006-2010, I completed a B.S. in theatre arts with minors in business and Spanish at the University of Oregon. I chose that path because a) I felt a sense of belonging and excitement being involved in theatre in high school, and b) I figured I wanted to do a little of everything, and theatre is a good way to do that. The business minor I added because it was 6 classes and practical, and Spanish because I started as a linguistics major, still love language, and wanted to be functional in another language.
After a stint working for REI (a great way to stock up on outdoor gear FYI), I worked for 2.5 years as an “Information Technology Consultant” (read: helpdesk technician) at UO’s College of Arts and Sciences, a job I got because I was good with computers, had always been a geek, and was able to fit in to the culture. While there, I got more into astronomy and space as a hobby. Curiosity landed on Mars, I was making my way through the Star Trek franchise for the first time, and I had a lot of good conversations with some of the physics and astronomy faculty at UO. Due to these events and a lot of introspection, I concluded there was no way I was going back to the arts–where I’d have to wait tables to make it like everyone else I had gone to school with–and no way I could continue in IT. I was studying for a networking certification that I don’t even remember the acronym for anymore and found it absolutely, crushingly boring, and I hated the fact that my helpdesk position had evolved into more of a management/purchasing job instead of a technical job. I wanted to do more problem solving, something that would be beneficial to humanity on a larger scale, and that would be challenging enough that there would always be something new to work on. It took the better part of a couple years, but eventually I made the decision to go back to school and pursue a field I felt I would fit much better in: science.
I knew I wanted to pursue astronomy/astrophysics/planetary science. It was something I had been passingly interested in for a long time, but at a low level, so that no one ever encouraged me as a kid to maybe pursue it. I did a lot of research and concluded the best thing to do would be to get a physics degree from UO. I was already a staff member there, so it would be cheap. Unfortunately, I had to quit my full time staff job and move into a different part-time staff job in another department to do it, but I did it, and from 2013-2017 I completed another B.S. in physics with a minor in math at UO. My plan was that if I failed catastrophically in the first year, I’d either go teach English in South Korea like a friend had done, or try and get into web development (which is still problem solving). Fortunately, I did very well that first year, made a host of new friends and new mentors, and continued on.
Now, I’m at CU Boulder for graduate school in planetary science, and am studying the Martian atmosphere via a mix of modeling and data analysis. I’m also very interested in exoplanets and climate science, and to some extent, any topic in astronomy, math, and physics (I’m super jealous of anyone who works in cosmology or certain areas of applied math, for example).
Outside of science, my favorite things to do are climbing, hiking, camping, skiing (as you’d expect for someone who moved to Colorado!), cultivating a balcony garden, board games, traveling, and cooking. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m spending more time on hiking, board games, video games, my balcony garden, running, language learning, and activism.