I always enjoyed earth sciences in school, but was bitten by the space bug in middle school when I attended Space Academy (Space Camp for older kids) with a friend. From there I went onto to get a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy from Johns Hopkins University, but I was missing that aspect of getting outside and playing with rocks and my environment. During undergrad I took an Introduction to Astrobiology course, which showed me I could do interdisciplinary work and planetary geology to combine earth science and space. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2013. My graduate research examined the alteration of fresh basaltic rocks in high-temperature, high-sulfur, low-pH, and low fluid:rock ratio environments (i.e. hydrothermal volcanic environments).
After grad school, I took a short (mental) break and assisted a friend with her research in Nepal. That consisted of trips into the Himalayas, where I trekked to the highest point I’ve ever been—Gokyo Ri 4750 m (17,575 ft). I would have gotten slightly higher (5420 m) going over Cho La pass but a typhoon in the Bay of Bengal dumped about 2 m of snow in 2 days and the new trail with still being broken when we arrived so we had a change of plans. While in Nepal, I did a Skype interview, then found out I was accepted for a postdoc position at the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska Fairbanks. I think that being in Nepal was helpful, since it showed I had a good chance of surviving in Alaska. So shortly after returning to the US, I moved to Fairbanks, AK in the middle of January. At the GI, I was in the Remote Sensing group since my research focused on stereophotogrammetry—in other words using stereo images from satellites to create terrain models (similar to how your eyes infer depth). In addition to research, I was highly involved with the GI’s traveling digital planetarium, which lead me to my current position as an Education and Outreach Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute.