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About the Event

What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Rock and ice climb, road and mtn bike, swimming, running, spending time with friends.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I was a drummer through high school.

What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
I love Eduardo Galeano’s Book of Embraces.

What’s the most frequently played song on your mp3 player?
I like all kinds of music, but I’ve got a special place for old Motown music.

How do you describe yourself?
Excited about the world and people around me, and always looking for an adventure.

Who do you look up to and admire?
So many people, but particularly those that rise up in the face of adversity.

Other basic bio info that you’d like to share
I was a sick kid, which changed a lot of my outlook on life.

Highest degree attained?

Schools attended
University of Connecticut (BS), Stanford (PhD)

Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college
English and math

What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
Finishing a dissertation!

What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
I was never sure I was meant to get a graduate degree -- wasn’t sure I was “smart” enough.

Colorado School of Mines

Official title
Associate Professor

“Layman’s” title

Years in this organization/position
1.5 years (was at Penn State for 7 years before Mines, and tenured there)

What does your organization do?
It’s a university.

What is your role in the organization?
I teach and do research.

Describe your work environment
Lots of students, from undergraduate to graduate, all focused on science and engineering.

What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
I use tools similar to xrays to look at the earth, and what’s happening below our feet.

Describe a typical day in your job
It’s seasonally dependent. In the fall and spring, I teach classes and work with students on their research. In the summer, I travel a lot to collect data.

How is the work you do important to society?
I study water issues, which is important as a resource to humans for drinking, cleaning, manufacturing, etc.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
I get to teach a lot of students every year about where the water they drink comes from, and how this is a resource to be carefully managed in a changing climate.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Finding time to work on all the interesting things that come my way.

What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
It’s hard to say. One of the most amazing things was getting to go into a deep gold mine in Ghana, and seeing the working conditions of the people there.

What would a teenager find interesting about what you do?
I get to work outside, all over the world, and on problems important to one of the most important resources to us: water!

What’s the coolest part of your job?
The travel is pretty great. The students are really fun, too.

What are some of the perks of your job?
Very flexible schedule, the ability to see the world and work on problems I care about.

What are the downsides of your job?
It’s not exactly a 9-5 job, and we have to raise the money we need to do the research we do.

If asked to “sell” this career to someone, what would you say to convince them to pursue it?
I don’t have a boss, and I work on what I want with who I want. I will work with awesome students for the rest of my life, and travel to amazing places.

What’s something that most people don’t know about your job/work?
Most students think I’m a teacher, but mostly, I do research. It’s kind of like in Indiana Jones...teaching is only a small part of the adventure!

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about your job/work?
That I get my summers off.

What personal traits make you well suited for the work that you do?
I can juggle a lot of things at once, and don’t get offended too easily.

What career-related awards or other forms of recognition have you received?
I’ve won early career awards from my scientific community and the National Science Foundation.

Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role
I was a field tech with the U.S. Geological Survey for three years before going to grad school, and then worked at Penn State as a professor after getting my Ph.D. before moving to Mines.

Other positions not necessarily related to your current career
I taught outdoor education while at Stanford.

Best job you’ve ever had and why
The job I have now. It’s flexible, it’s fun, and it’s never the same from day to day.

Worst job you’ve ever had and why
Shoe salesgirl at a retail store. I don’t even think I need to explain why on that one.

Biggest career “break” or notable moment
Getting hired at the USGS gave me a big break to see what scientists really do out there.

Proudest career accomplishment
Getting tenure.

What were you like as a kid?
A tomboy who loved an adventure.

What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
I loved Lloyd Alexander’s books as a kid, but I was generally a voracious reader.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
I’m not sure. For a long time, I think I thought I might be a writer. I loved writing stories.

When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
A happy accident: I met a geology professor when I was in high school, and he convinced me that that might be the field for me.

Who inspired you on this path?
A lot of people, but probably my high school physics teacher Mr. Jim Soltmann most of all.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
I think I could have done anything, really. I thought about a million careers while deciding on this one: to be an electrician, a yoga instructor, I can’t even remember some of the others.

Why did you agree to become a STEM Role Model?
Everyone needs to see that there are multiple paths to success, and mine is just one of many many many.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
Be curious! Ask lots of questions. Let your gut tell you if something feels right.

What advice would you give students in general?
Find a way to make your school subjects interesting for you, if only in the people you work with to get your homework done.

What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?
I’ve been to every continent besides Antarctica...there are so many interesting places out there, and so many more yet to see!

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