A Yelp ‘Hello (again), Universe”!

My Yelp! reviews

I have not updated this page in much too long!  A lot has happened since my last post (a quotation at that).  The big thing that has happened in my life is that I am happily married to the most wonderful man I know!  Our wedding was perfect and I finally completed all of the Yelp! reviews for our wedding.  Check out the link above to my Yelp! profile to learn about my favorite wedding vendors, and more.

I’ll be back on my blog, again, soon!

Women in Planetary Science– LPSC Reception

Back from a long hiatus!  It is good to blog again.  I had some thoughts I wanted to share in extended format and thought this was the perfect time to get back to writing.

Tonight I attended a wonderful event at the 43rd Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC):  The 4th Annual Women in Planetary Science Symposium.  For those who are not familiar with LPSC, it is one of the best space conferences out there, a ‘must attend’.

The evening started off with a mention of three wonderful female planetary scientists who passed away this year.  One was Susan Nieber, who started the Women in Planetary events at LPSC.  Her legacy is wide, and there are many websites that showcase this, including  There are many blogs telling of her heroic battle with cancer and her career contributions, and I can do no justice to this, but one link is here.

This year’s Women in Planetary Science event was filled to the brim, and some had to be turned away!  There was a great energy from the start.  The room had a largely young energy to it, but more senior women as well, and a few brave men!  The main part of the event was a panel with four women who are involved with planetary missions, their biographies linked at the bottom here.  One of the panelists brought up the issue of being ‘lucky’, and how she used that term and someone once said that she was not lucky, but that she worked hard– the later of which is of course true!  But the ‘lucky’ word was used by many, and there were two interesting things that women felt grateful for:

1)  Supportive mentors, including men.  The point was emphasized that having mentors was important, be they male or female.  Also, having men support the presence of women in science is an important, useful thing.

2) The women who have charged before them.  While the women on the panel said they had not experienced the glass ceiling, they acknowledged that women before them had to, and they appreciated that.

I enjoyed the tone of all this because there was an acknowledgement that there can be obstacles, but also a joy in women succeeding, as well.  Once this conversation was going, it did go in the direction of the fact that women are succeeding more than before, but the numbers are still not great when it came to women entering planetary science career tracks after grad school.  Someone, with caveats, did say that women often chose to leave the field… and a polite fire storm started up!  There were several loud ‘WHY?!”s in response to the comment that women ‘voluntarily’ left the field, and at least one comment that I heard (sadly I had to catch the bus back to my hotel before the evening ended).  The issue of ‘voluntarily’ leaving the field was brought to a forefront, right along with air quotations of ‘voluntarily’.

What struck me was that people have had allllll sorts of experiences.  One grad student commented, with tears, that she had no women to mentor her and that an attempt to have a ‘women in science’ gathering at her department failed.

I truly believe the women in the panel had good experiences and were authentic in their descriptions of their experiences.  I appreciate that they said ‘lucky’– not, of course, because they did not earn what they have.  But rather, to recognize that they have something not everyone does.  The reason people got riled up when it was expressed that women choose to leave the field on their own is that they have seen that this is not always true.  Many, many women have experienced frustrations and more within this male dominated field, and have chosen to leave because of it.  This includes family balance issues, but extends beyond those too.

I think it is important to not have a veneer that ‘everything is all right’ and that glass ceilings no longer exist.  We have enough imposter syndrome about the XX’s in science that to dismiss one’s experiences does not help the matter.  It is possible to say, ‘hey, this exists’, and at the same time lead this to a place a supporting one another, and looking for solutions.  Burying one’s head in the sand does not help anyone– how can you move forward to where you want to go if you do not acknowledge where are you?  Again, I genuinely think the panelists were being true to their own experiences.  I also think it was important to hear that not everyone has the same ‘lucky’ experiences they do.

I left with a major case of inspiration because these women do awesome stuff and worked hard to get there.  I am glad there were so many experiences discussed during the evening, and that while there is still a lot of frustration (which I feel myself sometimes), there is also a new era being ushered in. I want to thank everyone there for their honesty and the color they brought to the room.

What do you see at the current ‘status’ of things, and how it is being recognized?

Let’s go Venusians!

P.S. (a few minutes later…) One of the panelist explained her inspiration as a mission scientist as getting to be one of the first human beings to ever see an image— oooooh, so cool!  Total inspiration :)  because that equals a certain kind of discovery!

Remembering Dr. Barry Blumberg

NASA’s biggest asset is its amazing people, and one of the best parts of working at NASA is the people you meet in the course of your job.  Some are just awe-inspiring to meet (Buzz Aldrin), and others you get to work with closely or even have become your mentor.  When someone finds out that I work for NASA, I often talk about the amazing people I work with just as much I do about the neat stuff that NASA does.

I had the extreme honor of knowing, working with, and being mentored by Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who sadly passed away earlier this month.  Known as ‘Barry’ to his friends, including the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) where I work, he had a rare combination of being extremely intelligent and extremely wise at the same time.

Obituaries for Dr. Barry Blumberg abound on the internet, drawing attention to his amazing work with Hepatitis B, which has saved millions of lives.   They also mention his work with NASA, such as his leadership in the then burgeoning field of astrobiology.  Here I share some personal notes about Barry in both in the realm of intellectualism and humanity.  Overall, nothing in life was ‘work’ to him:  everyday was filled with passion for science, people, and the dynamics of the world around him.

Barry’s intellectual leadership was visible to anyone who interacted with him.  He was a constant learner who used every opportunity to interact with someone as a learning opportunity.  Arguably one of the smartest humans on the planet, Barry would ask so many questions and have a sense of wonder about it all, no matter who you were or what education level you had.  One of the most noticeable attributes to Barry was his extreme humility, all the more noticeable considering his intellectual feats.  One of the things he said that I shall always remember was, “You know, I’ve been an amateur at most things at life”.  At 72 he embarked on a new career step, leading the NASA Astrobiology Institute.  For him, it was something new and exciting that would bring him great joy.  To the science community, it was an amazing asset to have his brilliance influence a new discipline.
Dr. Baruch Blumberg
“…I’ve been an amateur at most things in life.”

Barry Blumberg taught me so much about scientific thinking.  One of his passions was Citizen Science, with one of his favorites being Moon Zoo, which he worked with via the NLSI.  He emphasized the importance of first observing and coming up with new ideas, and really thinking about things before delving into the other parts of the scientific process.  Amateurs particularly had a role in this, he pointed out.

Many have referred to Barry’s wisdom and humanity as well.  I will always consider myself amazingly lucky to get to know him and be mentored by him.  One of his first pieces of professional advice followed a meeting I organized and prepared for, but hesitated at taking the reigns of.  Barry said that the work I prepared was really good and that I should lead the meeting.  Even more memorable is that he said I had it in me.  Let me tell you, when a Nobel Laureate says something to you, particularly that they believe in you, you remember it!

Barry’s wisdom of life was also visible.  One of the first longer conversations I had with him was at a dinner party where he told me about seeing the film Last Chance Harvey.  He ended up telling me most of the plot but I didn’t care because he was so thoughtful in sharing the human dynamics of the film.  He really understood people.  He saw good and potential in everyone, and wasn’t afraid to share that.  He never spoke a word against anyone.  Barry inspired people to be the person he saw in them, and to better themselves each day and live up to one’s full potential.   One of Barry’s lasting influences on my life was his encouragement of me to return to graduate school for my scientific education.  He never pushed, just gently encouraged.  He supported my application for the Ames Graduate Co-op Program, from which I received an acceptance letter two days after Barry’s passing.

NASA (and the world) has lost an amazing asset.  The people who personally knew Barry have lost a wonderful friend. I will greatly miss the little wisdoms of life he sprinkled about, and wish I could have asked him so many more questions.  Your work and your heart will always be with us, Barry!

My next step in life!

I have two wonderful pieces of news to share:  First, I am returning to graduate school, and second, I have been accepted into the NASA Ames Graduate Co-op Program!

On grad school

Two weeks ago I returned to the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) to complete my Ph.D. in Earth & Planetary Sciences.  It is something I have thought about for some time, and with my experiences the last few years and some fantastic mentors, I realized that the time is now.  No better time to work towards your dreams than right now!

My interest in completing the Ph.D. includes several factors.  First, my wonderful work experiences in the last few years made me realize how much I miss actually doing science and that I really to be where the action is.  Second, I have had a lot of fun the past two years, with one highlight being international science partnerships.  I wondered if getting a Ph.D. would limit the scope of what I want to do, but one of my wonderful bosses pointed out that the Ph.D. would only open more doors in this and other realms, and allow me to do these kinds of things at a more impactful level.  Third, completing the Ph.D. will allow me to do things not possible with a Ph.D. at all, particularly conducting my own research and contributing towards science missions that travel to other worlds.  Finally, I originally went to graduate school to get my Ph.D. (for a couple of reasons just described), and left post-qualifying exam to explore other things, obtaining my Masters in the process.  However, I always had a sense of incompletion.  The Ph.D. is definitely something that would still prove invaluable to me, and the sense of completion is something I eagerly anticipate and that drives me to move forward.

My Ph.D. thesis will be studying triggers of an active hydrologic cycle on Mars, particularly in the past, using a Mars General Circulation Model (a 3D climate model).  At UCSC my advisor is Erik Asphaug, who with every conversation makes me think of entirely new concepts and lets the scientific imagination soar.  My NASA Ames advisor is Anthony Colaprete, who is remarkably good at balancing guidance and independence as a mentor.  I am very thankful to be working with both of them!

On the Ames Graduate Co-op Program

I feel very honored to have been selected for the NASA Ames Graduate Co-op program.  This work-study program is unique is that it offers both research and leadership experiences.  I am excited to get to know the other students in the program and strive to realize this opportunity to the fullest extent possible.  I have been in love with Ames for years, and look forward to the next evolution of my time here.

As part of the program, I will work half of my time at NASA Ames.  My current schedule is to be at UCSC on Tuesdays and Fridays, and at NASA Ames the rest of the week.  I will continue living in the South Bay, but look forward to spending more time in Santa Cruz.  I am learning to really appreciate Santa Cruz with fresh eyes!

Final Thoughts…

As I brush up on the latest Mars research and get back into the grad student mentality, I give thanks for many things.  In particular I want to thank my wonderful mentors, including many at my current workplace.  In particular I want to call out Barry Blumberg, an amazing person who passed away last week.  I was lucky to have known such an absolutely brilliant person, and so thankful for the greatest gift from him:  having him believe in me.  I will miss you Barry!

First Day back at school!

Today was my first day back at UC Santa Cruz! I will elaborate more on my returning later, but just a quick note that it was great to be back and I realized with fresh eyes what a great place Santa Cruz is.

The day included meeting with an amazing Mars scientist about my project, meeting old lab mates, meeting new lab mates and discussing computing resources (funner than it sounds), getting logistical stuff set up like my ID card, and having to walk through the lovely campus on a spring day to do all this.

More coming soon…