My first memory is of my Dad hunched over our new Sanyo personal computer, one of the first PCs ever produced for individual consumers. He told me I needed to know about science and math, because technology is going to be the way of the future. If I wasn't on top of technology, science and math, I'd be left behind. I've always felt the imperative to pursue math and science. I assume it is the result of internalizing my father's words. My parents bought kits that allowed me to assemble skeletons, muscles over the bones, so that I would understand how the body works. They wanted me to know everything I could. My mother took me to the Natural History museum where I would pour over the gems and minerals and stand awed beneath the giant dinosaur skeletons. They both let me dig in the back yard as an archaeologist and apparently planted the arrowhead I still carry around with me.
I feel like I have always wanted to be a geologist. The specific branch of geology has changed with time, but I have never seriously wavered in my career choice. At six, I told my first grade teacher I wanted to be a paleontologist. She didn't know what that was, so she had me explain it to the class. I told her I wanted to study dinosaurs and that in order to do that, I needed a doctorate.
|Main entryway at LA County Natural History Museum, December 2010.|
Then in third grade, I watched a PBS video on the Hawaiian volcanoes. There is something truly magical about watching ribbons of bright orange molten rock collide with the sea to form pillow lavas as the lava hits the cold waters of the Pacific. I decided I'd be a volcanologist.
|Formation of a pillow lava. Photo courtesy of http://bit.ly/ayXoZS|
In high school, I became obsessed with ground and surface water pollution. I was fascinated by red tides, so I decided to be a hydrogeologist.
|Red Tides. Courtesy of: http://bit.ly/gYoavs|
Then in college, I found out about ophiolites and how we can use them to study ancient seafloor spreading processes. I decided I would be a marine geologist/volcanologist/structural geologist.
In graduate school while I was working on ophiolites, I learned how microorganisms can alter the oceanic crust at black and white smokers. I thought, someday I should pursue that.
Then I got married and tried to find a job in my field that was close to the Navy base where my husband works, so I ended up as a HAZMAT manager, and Environmental Manager. I didn't feel challenged at that job and when we moved, I looked for a new position. I found NOTHING within a 2 hr, one way commute, so I tried to be a housewife and turned into a lunatic. Hubby pushed me to write up my thesis into a publication and get back into the game. This may have been for his own sanity.
I decided to do just that, and that I would work on microbial alteration of the seafloor. Funding fell through, so I ended up constructing a dissertation out of microbial weathering in terrestrial hot springs. It wasn't exactly what I wanted initially (being a seafloor girl), but it has been a supremely rewarding experience that has exposed me to all sorts of new ideas.
|Field Sampling in 2009 to look at microbial weathering in hot spring systems. Note: Do not try this at home.|
By now I am sure you see a trend. I've always wanted to be some sort of geologist and when I can't do that, I am miserable. I honestly believe that my parent's influence in those earliest interactions played an important driving role in my decision to become a scientist. This is part of why I feel so strongly that parents are the key to growing young scientists.