• Michelle Borkin

    Michelle Borkin | Interdisciplinary Scientist, Harvard

    I work across multiple disciplines to create new ways for scientists to visualize and explore their data.

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    High School Activities:
    Theater, Choir, Photography, Field Hockey
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Harvard University, Astronomy and Physics
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Harvard University, Ph.D. (candidate), Applied Physics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Creativity, an understanding of physics and math, programming experience, writing skills, and communication skills

    I co-founded the “Astronomical Medicine” project at Harvard and collaborate with both astronomers and doctors to help analyze and visualize their data. I work to use visualization and analysis techniques across scientific disciplines. Most recently, I have collaborated with computational physicists, computer scientists, radiologists, and cardiologists to visualize blood flow simulation data and compare that with real medical imaging data to diagnose and treat heart disease.

    I am also a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and was chosen by TED as a TEDGlobal 2009 Fellow.

    My Advice: The most important advice I could give, based on my own scientific career, is to not be afraid to be creative or think “outside the box” and to follow your passions both inside and outside of science—don't be afraid to mix them up! For example, my passion for art helps me in scientific visualization and my passion for performance helps me in presenting my research to the public.

    Borkin speaking about her work at Harvard

    http://www.seas.harvard.edu/~borkin/

    http://www.ted.com/talks/michelle_borkin_can_astronomers_...

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  • Phillip Chamberlin

    Phillip Chamberlin | Solar Scientist, NASA Goddard

    I study how the Sun changes due to an 11-year solar cycle, and how these changes affect Earth and Mars.

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    High School Activities:
    Football, Tennis, Basketball, French Club, Volleyball, Backpacking, Camping, Guitar, Rugby
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Hanover College, Hanover, IN, Physics
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    University of Colorado, Boulder, Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering Sciences
    To Do My Job You Need:
    An understanding of physics and all areas of math, writing skills, programming experience, engineering experience

    I am a research astrophysicist at the Solar Physics Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. My research focuses primarily on measuring and modeling the solar X-ray and ultraviolet irradiance. I have worked on six sounding rocket payloads and the TIMED SEE and SDO EVE data analysis. The TIMED SEE project observed the Sun and Earth, recording the amount of electromagnetic radiation present on the Sun and how much of that reached Earth. I was also involved in the development of the GOES-R EXIS instruments (XRS and EUVS) and the detector for the SPICE instrument on Solar Orbiter, all of which aided in recording data about the Sun.

    I am currently the deputy project scientist for the Solar Dynamics Observatory. I have participated in many education and public outreach opportunities and am a collaborator on the NASA Heliophysics Education and Public Outreach Forum. I not only study data from spacecraft such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory, but I also design and build experiments to fly on satellites and sounding rockets.

    My Advice: I was never the smartest kid in my classes but I worked really hard, which was more important to getting where I am. Just work and study as hard as you can, and it will pay off with a really fun job!

    Chamberlin talking about his work at NASA

    http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/people/profile.cfm?Code=Chamb...

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  • Holly Gilbert

    Holly Gilbert | Solar Researcher, NASA

    I run the NASA GSFC Solar Physics Lab, supervising 18 people, while also researching eruptive solar phenomena.

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    High School Activities:
    Cello, Theater
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    University of Colorado, Boulder, Physics
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    University of Oslo, Norway, Ph.D., Theoretical Astrophysics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Communication skills (public speaking), writing skills, understanding of math (including calculus), and management experience

    Although I did my undergraduate work in physics, I knew fairly early on that I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I had always loved astronomy, even as a child. I started an internship at the High Altitude Observatory focusing on solar physics during my undergraduate years. That was where I fell in love with the Sun.

    After obtaining a bachelor's degree, I got a job as an associate scientist at the same place I was an intern. I then went on to get my Ph.D. and went to Rice University as a research scientist. After working at Rice for a couple of years, I came to NASA as the associate director for science of the Heliophysics Science Division. In late 2011, I moved into my current position of solar physics lab chief in the same division.

    My Advice: Don't be afraid to take risks, and try to find a great mentor. Take advantage of any opportunities, including those that involve talking to senior-level colleagues.

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  • Jack Ireland

    Jack Ireland | Solar Physicist, NASA Goddard

    I study the physics of the Sun and develop tools and resources to enable others to study it.

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    High School Activities:
    Rugby, Astronomy
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    University of Glasgow, Scotland, Physics and Mathematics
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    University of Glasgow, Scotland, Ph.D., Physics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Writing skills, programming experience, and an understanding of physics, mathematics, and statistics
    I was born in Hamilton, Scotland. I remember being told at school that there were three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. But I had read somewhere that there was a fourth state of matter called plasma. So I was kind of curious as to why the teacher never told us about it. I found out more about plasmas at the school astronomy club and learned that the Sun is a big ball of plasma, as are most other stars. I studied more astronomy at university. After that, I worked at the University of St. Andrews and became fascinated by the Sun. I had the opportunity to work at Goddard Space Flight Center and I was very keen to go. (Bio from Sun|trek)

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  • Sean McKillop

    Sean McKillop | Support Scientist, Harvard

    As a support scientist, I am working on building a rocket that will take pictures of the Sun. I also work on 3-D modeling of solar magnetic fields.

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    High School Activities:
    Model Building, PEZ Collection, Boy Scouts
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    University of Maryland–College Park, Astronomy
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Programming experience, data analysis, patience

    I fell in love with science when I started watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, and I fell in love with astronomy when I watched Carl Sagan's The Cosmos. So when I started my undergraduate career, I of course majored in... biology! I liked bio, but taking an introductory astro class made me remember my one true love. I've worked in the field ever since then.

    When I was an undergraduate at UMD, I got a job in the magnetometer group at Goddard Space Flight Center. Getting this job was a big deal and it has opened up other opportunities to me. In this group, I assisted in building and testing the two magnetometers that are on the Juno spacecraft, which is now on its way to Jupiter. After Juno launched last year, I briefly worked as a junior parts engineer at Goddard, working on three other space flight projects. After this, I ended up at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (where I am now), studying the Sun and working on an awesome-sounding rocket program! Each experience has been new and exciting and I can't believe I get to do this stuff for a living.

    My Advice: Work hard and keep at it. Spend as much time as necessary to learn new concepts.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/main/index.html

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  • Sophia Mitchell

    Sophia Mitchell | Aerospace Engineering Student

    As a student, I’ve been able to do research on everything from robotic systems to distant galaxies and solar flares.

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    High School Activities:
    Pilot License, Science Fair, Science Olympiad, Mountaineering, Diving Team, Horseback Riding, Volunteer Work
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    University of Cincinnati, Aerospace Engineering
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Programming experience, an understanding of physics, calculus, and mechanics; logic, writing skills, and a lot of curiosity.

    I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Since I was about six years old, I have aspired to be an astronaut. Motivated by this goal, I began research in middle school while also taking flying lessons to get my pilot license. Through middle and high school, I participated in several science activities, such as Science Olympiad and science fairs, and continued to do research. My main interests have evolved from heliophysics to astrophysics to intelligent robotics. However, I really love anything having to do with space.

    Aside from science, I am a distance runner, slight history buff, and love music, animals, and cooking. I have been riding horses since a young age and will go riding whenever the chance presents itself. I am also a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, where I survived a month-long course in Alaskan mountaineering. I love adventure, and I am a strong believer that people achieve the most when they're happy, healthy, and having fun!

    My Advice: Don't be afraid to ask questions, introduce yourself to people, knock on office doors, and be proactive. Getting into research early allows you time to figure out your interests and see what kind of work environment you prefer. Through knowing yourself in this way, you can put yourself in a position where school and work feel like play.

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  • Fana Mulu-Moore

    Fana Mulu-Moore | Postdoctoral Researcher, NASA

    I use data and simulations to study why the solar atmosphere is hotter than the solar surface.

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    High School Activities:
    Student Government, Science Olympiad, Volleyball, Soccer, Basketball, Track
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Alabama A&M University, Bachelor's Degree, Physics and Space Science
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Alabama A&M University, Ph.D., Physics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Programming skills, writing skills (especially writing proposals and scientific papers), and verbal communication skills

    Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I came to the United States to attend college at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, AL. There are very limited higher education opportunities in Ethiopia in the sciences, especially for women. I always loved the sciences and math, so I decided to major in physics, with a focus in space science. At that time, Alabama A&M was one of the few HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) that had a space science concentration in its physics department.

    During my undergraduate years, I was very active in our Society of Physics Students chapter; I served as president my senior year. I also participated in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates summer programs every year and attended the National Society of Black Physicists annual conferences.

    I decided to stay at Alabama A&M in order to work with Dr. Amy Winebarger on my Ph.D. in physics. My dissertation on solar coronal loops won the best dissertation award by the HBCU graduate program council. I am now in the NASA postdoctoral program working with the solar physics group at Marshall Space Flight. After a 12-week maternity leave, I will begin my second year.

    My Advice: The most cliché advice is to work hard, but it's definitely true. Always work hard and make a great impression. Take advantage of all the opportunities available to you, such as conferences, internships, and summer programs. For college students in STEM, there are several Summer REU (research experience for undergraduate) programs that are excellent. Participating in these competitive programs is a great way to make contacts, which are crucial when applying to graduate school or jobs, and to determine what specific areas in the field are most suited for you. There are many summer programs for high school students as well.

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  • Matthew Pearlson

    Matthew Pearlson | Renewable Fuels Researcher

    I research the costs and greenhouse gases associated with producing renewable fuels.

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    High School Activities:
    Cross Country Running, Track and Field, Student Government, Painting, and Ceramics
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    University of Massachusetts Amherst, B.S., Chemical Engineering
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, M.S., Technology and Policy
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Analytical skills, data analysis experience, and the ability to work as part of a team

    I studied chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. During my summer, I worked on various alternative and renewable fuel technologies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and at MIT. After graduation, I moved to Seattle and worked for Microsoft to make Windows 7 software more energy efficient. In 2009, I moved to Boston to work on my graduate degree at MIT, where I research renewable jet fuels. In my spare time, I enjoy running, cycling, and puzzles.

    My Advice: Don't be afraid to try new things, and make sure to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

    http://www.lae.mit.edu/

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  • Kathy Reeves

    Kathy Reeves | Solar Researcher, Harvard

    I analyze images of the Sun in search of clues about how energy is dissipated during solar flares.

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    High School Activities:
    Dance, Band (Flute)
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Reed College, Physics
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    University of New Hampshire, Ph.D., Physics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Computer programming experience, thorough understanding of calculus, writing skills, public speaking skills.

    I grew up in suburban Denver and took physics in high school. I never really pictured myself as a scientist during high school but the summer before I went to college, my dad's cousin suggested to me that I should try majoring in physics. He made the point that physics was a major that had a lot of class requirements and if I started out as a physics major, I could always switch to something else later if I didn't like it. So I majored in physics and totally loved it. From there, I got a master's in physics with a concentration in optics at Northeastern University, and eventually went on to get my Ph.D. in physics at the University of New Hampshire. Now I am a solar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. It is a fantastic job!

    My Advice: My advice to students just starting their careers in science is to find something that you are passionate about and study that. Also, don't be afraid to fail. Sometimes the only way to find out what you are good at and what you are not is to try, so do not let the fear of failure keep you from trying anything.

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  • Martha Wawro

    Martha Wawro | Project Manager, NASA SDO Education & Public Outreach

    As an education and outreach lead for NASA, I bring the wonders and science of the Sun to the public.

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    High School Activities:
    Swimming, Volleyball, Music, Theatre

    My professional background is in education and management. In high school, I was in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program with a focus in chemistry, while also taking higher-level IB classes in history and English. After graduating high school, I studied abroad at a college preparatory school in the Czech Republic for one year on a Rotary Exchange scholarship. In college, I was a biochemistry and Russian studies major because I also enjoyed Russian literature and language.

    Prior to my work at NASA, I worked in the Republic of Georgia as a community development and education specialist in the United States Peace Corps. In this position, I worked closely with both my Georgian counterparts and local nongovernment and business organizations to design and implement a variety of projects including camps for kids, language lessons for adults, community environmental projects, educational improvement projects, and the development of an education and medical therapy center.

    I'm now working toward my master's of science in project management. With this background, I'll have skills in communication, writing, project planning, and evaluation as well as experience in science-based analysis and research.

    My Advice: It is possible to do real science very early in your high school or college career. NASA accepts both high school and undergraduate interns, but there are also always professors looking for students to help out in their research. Also, science is a field that takes hard work and perseverance; don't ever let someone tell you that you aren't smart enough to be a scientist. If science is something that you enjoy and are willing to work hard at, you will find your place in the field.

    http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/

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