Small Rock-Type Stuff to Form Water Ice on the Red Body

What the heck am I talking about?  I decided to take on the Up-Goer Five Challenge of explaining my science using the top ten hundred most used words in the English language (hint:  “thousand” is not one of them).  So here I tackle a major component of my Ph.D. Thesis.  I cheat a tiny amount and use quotation marks to denote special terms (that is, words not in the top ten hundred list).  Enjoy, and try it for yourself here!

Small Rock-Type Stuff to Form Water Ice on the Red Body “Mars”

a.k.a. Chlorine-containing Salts as Water Ice Nucleating Particles on Mars

This paper looks at how water ice forms in the sky on the red body that is in space, called ‘Mars’. On ‘Mars’ and the body where we live, ‘Earth’, there is this small rock-type stuff that you add to most foods called ‘salt’ (not the sweet stuff).  There are many kinds of ‘salt’.  Ice can form in the air on ‘salt’ on ‘Earth’.  Water ice will form on whatever things where it most easily can form.  Earlier studies looked at how well water ice forms on other things in the air, like small pieces of rock called ‘dust’.   In this work, we try to form water ice on different types of things to see if it will form better on stuff like ‘dust’ or better on different types of ‘salt’.

We took a box and made it cold and light in air, like it is in the ‘Mars’ sky.  One type of ‘salt’ (called ‘sodium’ ‘perchlorate’), which is seen on the ground of ‘Mars’, is thought to cause wet water to happen on the ground of ‘Mars’ so many people are interested in it.  We found that the ‘salt’ ‘sodium’ ‘perchlorate’ made it easier to have water ice form in air that is like the sky of ‘Mars’.  It was easier to form water ice on this ‘salt’ than it was ‘dust’ (or the best type of ‘dust’ for forming water ice, ‘clay’ ‘dust’), which is what people who study ‘Mars’ think of as what helps form water ice in the sky of ‘Mars’.   If the ‘salt’ ‘sodium’ ‘perchlorate’ is in the sky of ‘Mars’, it may help more big water ice things (‘clouds’) form in the sky of ‘Mars’.



Delia’s guide to the wonderful, crazy world of selling clothes online– Part II: Website Reviews

This post will provide a brief outline of buying and selling clothing online.  The last two websites I discuss, Poshmark and Tradesy, are the two I personally use and I will go into more detail about my experiences with these websites.  If you want to join those sites, please let me know and I send you an invitation which will give YOU extra spending cash and me a bonus as well :).  For the remainder of the sites, please feel free to let me know if something is incorrect, as these companies change how they work over time and I may not have all of the information.

I enjoyed noting the messages, or experiences, each of these sites wants to sell.  Whether quality, community, choice, a lifestyle, or environmentalism (you are keeping designer handbags out of landfills– otherwise they would have gone in the trash! /sarcasm), the experience each site sells differentiates them, along with logistical differences of course.  Let me know what you think!

Just a note that I did not review eBay, which is still a major hub of clothing resale and has lots of great stuff.  These websites are customized for clothes and more user-friendly for selling items, particularly for an e-commerce newbie like me.  You can also list items for a long time with these websites, while I believe eBay lists items for a limited time.

As Oprah says, here we go…


While I haven’t used this site, it would be the one I would choose if I were to buy designer goods based on their authentication process and the prices.  The creator knows her stuff (and is from Silicon Valley) and maintains that you do not need to handle an item to know its authenticity:  a true authenticator needs only pictures.  Because brands are SO specific, Lollipuff sells only a limited number of brands to ensure expertise.  I haven’t found another website so thorough.  The blog is excellent, too.  This website has gotten much less press than the other websites on the list, but I think it is a hidden gem and I hope it succeeds because of the integrity with which they maintain in their authentication. There are a good amount of international sellers and customers on this site.

Their message:  “Always Authentic at Brag-Worthy Prices”; quality and authenticity truly guaranteed.

Type of site:  Peer-to-peer, with authentication process before listing goes live on website..  Flat price listing or auctions available.

Type of items:  Select designer brands for women, including clothes, shoes, and accessories, including many handbags.

Buying:  You can search by brand, size, and item type.  Paypal guarantee, and website will help with buyer-seller disagreements.  Returns are seller-dependent.  Shipping not included in list price.  The prices are quite reasonable because the company does not physically handle the item.

Selling:  Lollipuff takes 9% of the sale price, one of the lowest cuts I’ve seen.  You handle shipping and returns.


You send Thredup your clothes in a bag they provide (“Clean Out kit“), for which they pay for shipping, and they sell the clothes for you.  Some clothes they give you money for upfront, while with other clothes you are paid for with a consignment model (only once the item sells do you get money), and other items are donated or returned to you for a fee.

Their message:  “Clean out with Thredup”; convenience and they help keep clothes out of landfills (environmental message).

Type of site:  They sell items for you.  They both buy clothes and consign items.

Type of items:  A broad range of brands, though not all, including women and children’s (both genders) items, from clothes and shoes to accessories.

Buying:  Easy to search for items by brand, size, color, and price.  Most items, excluding handbags, are eligible for refunds with some exceptions. Most reviews suggest items are of good quality.

Selling:  Because the company does a lot of the work, you do not in general get a lot of money for your items.  Think 3-5 bucks for a nice Ann Taylor skirt that cost $79.99 originally.  Here is a random bag payout.  Most items have a link at the bottom of the listing “More items from this seller” which shows the bag payout.


Threadflip is a hybrid of  peer-to-peer sites where you list your own clothes, and sites offering full service where you send a bag in and they list the items for you.  Full Service is consignment (you get money once an items sell).  They have a partnership with Goodwill for unaccepted or unsold accepted Full Service items.

Their message:  Directly from them:  “Threadflip is pioneering a new social shopping experience by offering women a simple way to convert their closets into a dynamic boutique-like experience, connecting buyers with sellers, and capturing the collaborative energy of shopping with friends.”

Type of site:  Both peer-to-peer and they will sell items for you via a consignment model.

Type of items:  Women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories.

Buying:  Search for items by category, brand, price, size, color, and condition.  Shipping is included in the price of the item.  You can negotiate listed prices.

Selling:  Either send them your items for Full Service listing or list items yourself.  Full service is ‘free’ and you can pay $15 to have unaccepted items returned.  More information, including Full Service commission rates, are here.  They have a strict list of items and brands that they will accept.  If you list items yourself they deduct a 20% fee and you either pay shipping yourself or have $6 deducted from the sale price for a shipping label.  Full Service will handle returns, while if you list items on your own you can choose whether or not to accept returns (with protections for the buyer that the items is not fake or not as described).


One of the older companies that has a loyal following.  They have a nice app, which I tried out but I was already invested in the other sites I was trying so I have not sold anything using this.

Their message:  “Make second hand the 1st choice”

Type of site:  Peer-to-peer.  Flat price listing.

Type of items:  Any brand you choose to sell, for women, including clothes, shoes, and accessories, including many handbags.

Buying:  Search for items by brand, size, price, and condition.  Shipping price is not included in item price and is listed separately.  Returns possible for damaged or improperly represented items.

Selling:  Easy to list items yourself and set the price you want.  Vinted takes 19% of the selling price.

The RealReal

A high-end luxury goods site which seems to be very successful.  The most intriguing thing is that they entered into an agreement with Nieman Marcus where you can redeem your sold item profits as a Nieman Marcus gift certificates.  This is an interesting step in making people more comfortable buying luxury goods with the knowledge that those items have a strong resale value, allowing one to buy more luxury goods later on.  They are one of the leaders in VC funding!  There are a lot of international customers and sellers on this site.

Their message:  “Authenticated Luxury Consignment”

Type of site:  Consignment, where they take the item and sell it for you.

Type of items: A large but finite list of luxury brands for men and women (clothing, shoes, accessories), as well as art.  They buy and sell fine jewelry of all sorts– you can find engagement rings there, for example.

Buying:  Search by brand, price, size, and color, once you can get to the item listings.  Returns appear to be available on most non-final sale items.  Shipping is not included in listing price.  The prices are on the higher end, but tend to be in good condition and they have a nice selection.

Selling:  Ship your items to them for free or for those with many luxury items living in select cities, someone will come to you.  The items are kept by The RealReal, photographed, and sold by them. Sellers make a maximum of 70% of the sale price, but usually less depending on how many items are sold within a given amount of time (the company does a lot of the work).  Their process is a tad more confusing than others on this list, so check here for more details.

The Vestiaire Collective

I don’t know much about this site aside from that it is very high-end and targeted towards the Upper East Side set.  The website has a very international customer and seller base.

Their message:  “The most stylish global marketplace for pre-owned luxury and designer fashion”

Type of site:  Hybrid of peer-to-peer and peer and having them serve as intermediary.  You list items, and once a sale is approved they provide a shipping label for you to ship the item to the company, where they authenticate the item(s) and then complete the sale. Offers on listed prices are allowed.

Type of items:  Sells men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, shoes, and accessories, as well as lifestyle items.

Buying:  Search by brand, price, size, condition, and even material.  You can make an offer or just pay the list price.  Shipping fees are not included.  Returns are not facilitated, though re-listing an item you purchased is.  The prices are often quite high, and not a huge difference from retail prices sometimes.  Since they appear to authenticate items after they are purchased, it is possible fakes are listed but are caught before they are sent to the seller.

Selling:  Their cut depends on the sale item price.  You list an item and when it sells you ship it to the company (they provide a shipping label), and they release you the funds once the item is approved and ships out.


I have sold 7 items to date on Poshmark, and it has been the quickest way for me to sell the greatest variety of items (my husband likes to ask, “Are you Poshing again?!”)  My brands sold included Ralph Lauren, Express, and Lucky.  The majority of items I have sold were bid for, meaning I accepted a sale price lower than that listed.  This is completely optional, and you can easily compensate for this by have prices listed slightly higher than the lowest price you are willing to accept.  Poshmark is very community oriented and social; people will comment on your items and be very personal.  Many “Poshers”, as they are called, take great care in wrapping up packages and often include free gifts with purchase.  Poshmark is also encouraging more women to become their own business by introducing a retail program, encouraging people to buy retail items in bulk and sell the items on their application.  It makes the excellent point that ANY women can participate in e-commerce via Poshmark because all women have clothes to sell.  Overall, I have enjoyed Poshmark, though there are a good amount of hagglers and counterfeits.  I have bought three items via Poshmark, entirely using money earned from my sales:  one pair of jeans (very happy), a cute summer dress (love), and another semi-formal dress which was probably bought in bulk and was slightly disappointing (the material didn’t look as nice as in the picture).  I personally target individual sellers who operate more as personal sellers rather than a business, since the items have a known history.

I use their iPhone app and it’s very user-friendly.  You’ll be alerted to daily “Parties”, which are themed listings of items (by brand, style, or other novel them).  Here are two screenshots of a listing I am editing, to give you an idea of the information you enter when you list an item:

IMG_2544 IMG_2545

Note that the listing is $25, so you make $20 and the Poshmark fee is $5.  Shipping is on top of this and displayed separately for buyers.

Their message:  “The new way to buy & sell fashion”; community oriented.

Type of site:  Peer-to-peer.  Bidding allowed by default.

Type of items:  Any brand you choose to sell, for women, including clothes, shoes, and accessories, including many handbags.  People also sell makeup and other beauty products.

Buying:  Search by category, brand, price, color, condition, and set your size for easier searches.  Shipping price is not included in item price and is listed separately.  Shipping label is provided electronically upon confirmation of sale and can be used on a box of your choice for shipment via USPS.  Returns possible for damaged or improperly represented items.

Selling:  Easy to list items yourself and set the price you want.  Poshmark takes 20% of the selling price.  While this may seem high, Poshmark has a lot of traffic and is a quick way to sell items.


I have sold 5 items on Tradesy and it is easy to use and has one of the lowest cuts around– only 9%.  My brands sold include Anthropologie and Ralph Lauren.  Tradesy takes away almost all of the inconveniences associated with selling:  it has a clean, sleek interface which minimizes the flea market feel other sites might have, it accepts all returns without question and neither the seller nor buyer has to deal with it, and it provides a shipping kit, so the package and labeling are all hassle free.  The website has a crazy amount of sales, and I haven’t quite figured out how it affords this (sales are typically 10% the list price, which winds up being more than they make, unless they are taking a bigger part of the shipping fees than is clear).  The branding is strong with this company, and they have pretty sophisticated ways of suggesting items for you to buy:  the entire website and experience is very appealing.  They encourage you to think of buying high quality items, but wearing them more and recognizing they have resale value, so you can have items in constant rotation.  I have bought one item from Tradesy, which was a NWT (New with Tags), nicely priced Ann Taylor dress which I was very happy with, and have also cashed out some of the money from my sales.

Their iPhone app is very user-friendly, though it doesn’t allow the full range of search options as the full website does (for buying).  Here are some screenshots of a listing I am editing, to give you an idea of the information you enter when you list an item (note:  they have already removed the background out of my cover shot):

IMG_2546 IMG_2547 IMG_2548

The buyer pays $25, which includes shipping (they don’t see the breakdown), and you make $15.92 (91% of the $17.50 selling price) and the Tradesy fee is $1.58 (9% of the $17.50 selling price).

Their message:  “There’s cash in your closet”; think about your closet as having “endless possibilities”.  They encourage you to think of buying high quality items, but wearing them more and recognizing they have resale value, so you can have items in constant rotation.  Think in “cost per wear”, instead of just “cost per item”.

Type of site:  Peer-to-peer.  Flat price listing.

Type of items:  Any brand you choose to sell, for women, including clothes, shoes, and accessories, including many handbags.  They gear towards being more upscale, though anything is allowed.

Buying:  Search by brand, price, color, and condition, though mobile searching is limited.  Very easy buying process overall.  Shipping is included in the item price.  Many people opt to use the shipping kits, which must be mailed to the seller, thus adding extra time on an order before the buyer receives the item.  Returns allowed for any reason.  Note that while they advertise an authenticity guarantee, they do not actually authenticate, so do your research on designer labels before taking the chance.  They sell returns via their “Penny Lane” account, which has been accused of selling fakes.

Selling:  As easy as can be.  They even clean the background of your cover shot for a cleaner, more professional looking appearance.  For most items they will suggest a sale price, and they take 9% of your sale price.  Shipping is added on top of the item price, so the seller just sees one price.

Thank you for checking out my list of ways to sell clothes online!  Your feedback is most welcome, and I’m curious if anyone is using any other sites.  Let me know if you try anything, and if you want to sell on Poshmark or Tradesy I will invite you so we can both get discounts in the future!

Delia’s guide to the wonderful, crazy world of selling clothes online– Part I: Overview

This is the first of two posts about selling clothes online.  This post will focus on some basics of selling your clothes online (and buying clothes online too!), and the next post will include more in-depth reviews of the two tools I use, Poshmark and Tradesy.  If you want to join those sites, please let me know and I send you an invitation which will give YOU extra spending cash and me a bonus as well :D.

Where to start?!

First, what brought you here?  Why sell one’s clothes online?

For me, I am obsessed with decluttering and also have a more limited budget since I returned to graduate school a few years ago.  Why not declutter my closet while making money from what I was getting rid of?    I find a lot of women are interested in decluttering, which I think is an extension of nesting and trying to control the immediate environment around us.

Marie Kondo’s book on decluttering has fueled online clothing resale.

If one is interested in seriously decluttering one’s life, may I suggest Marie Kondo’s best seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  There are many blog posts about it.  I have not completed the full process (which can take months), but have begun.  The woman really gets into the psychology of clutter.  There are several articles about how this decluttering approach, called the KonMarie method, has fueled donations to Goodwill and Salvation Army, as well as contributed lots of goods to the growing online clothing resale and consignment space.

So decluttering is awesome, but why not instead of selling clothes online…

Why not donate clothes?

I believe donating clothes is a wonderful thing to do, and I still do it on occasion.  If we’re all honest, it’s also the most convenient thing to do:  When you are moving, you get to bring some big bags over to Goodwill or Salvation Army and then not have to think about it again.  I fully support those organizations and buy from them as well (I got a great dresser for my dining room a few months ago for a nice price).  That being said, those organizations receive many more bags of Stuff than they can sell (which is usually how they make money), and a variety of things may happen to the items, including being shipping to second or third world countries (where the clothing competes with local textile industries) or being sold to produce insulation or furniture filling (do you really think someone is going to buy your t-shirt from junior high?).  There are many articles that discuss this, but this one from 2002 really brings the point home:  How Susie Bayer’s T-Shirt Ended Up on Yusuf Mama’s Back.  I sell some clothes online because I know they are going to someone who wants and will use the item, which gives some sort of lovely order to the world.  I also feel less guilty buying a new dress if I sold two or three items already in my closet to get it!

Okay, so what are the basics of selling clothes online?

Each website sells it’s own experience.  Understanding the personality of each site will help you find the best one to sell and/ or buy at.

First, this is a HUGE growing industry.  There are many millions of dollars in venture capital going into this industry, and the herd is already beginning to thin (RIP Bib + Tuck, Twice).

These are businesses, so this is not just about you selling your clothes online, but people also need to buy clothes so that the business takes a percent of the sale as profit.  I should also clarify some terms.  Online consignment specifically refers to turning over your goods temporarily and having the company sell the item for you, only after which you will receive money for your item.  Think old school consignment shops.  Peer-to-peer is when you sell directly to another person, with the company providing the platform to do this.  Think eBay.

There are almost as many models for selling clothes online as there are companies facilitating this, and some are neither “consignment” nor peer-to-peer, and will buy items from you directly, or have a hybrid approach.  I will go over specific sites later.

Beware the red soles: A popular Louboutin style that costs a cool $675. Just make sure that they are not fakes!

So online clothing resale is becoming big business, with businesses taking a cut of the sale, so how do they make real money from people reselling their old wares? DESIGNER, BABY.  I am now much aware of the subtleties of Louboutin soles, Hervé Leger stitching, and Louis Vuitton leather styles than I was a year ago (hey, I need to give my mind a break from thinking about planetary atmosphere experiments sometime!)

Just to be clear, you do NOT need to have designer wares to sell clothes online.  There are plenty of people like me who have more Ann Taylor than Phillip Lim in their closets.  Just realize that the online resale space is largely geared towards this, because that is how they make their money.  This brings me to how this industry is making such big business:  Each website sells it’s own experience.  Understanding the personality of each site will help you find the best one to sell and/ or buy at.

Also, many individuals are making a living by selling clothes through these websites and acquire their inventory by buying items wholesale for manufacturers or buying items for very low prices at local used clothing stores.  That’s not my personal interest, as this is a side activity for me, but it’s out there if you want to research more.

Some basics on selling clothes

  • You can sell new or used clothes, but try to makes the items as fresh as possible, like you would give a good friend.
  • NWT means “new with tags”.  If you have the tags on the item, be sure to label it NWT to get more money.
  • For high items like designer shoes or purses, save receipts, tags, and original packaging to increase the resale price and as partial evidence of authenticity.
  • Be ready to ship items within a day or two of receiving an order.
  • Take lots of pictures, ideally wearing the item if it looks good on you.  The pictures sell the item!
  • If the website allows counter offers to your price, price the item higher than you want to sell.  People will usually offer you a lower price than listed.

Some basics on buying clothes

  • Don’t be afraid to buy ‘used’ clothes online– there are actually lots of NEW clothes online that people bought and never used, so want to sell.  Sometimes people just wore things once or twice.
  • I’m admittedly more nervous about buying shoes on a clothing resale site, but to each her own, and again some people buy shoes but never use them and then its too late to return them.
  • Know your SIZE and stick to brands you buy a lot of clothes from if you are curious.
  • Buy items where they show pictures of the ACTUAL item, NOT only a stock photo.  Some people buy items in bulk and the end item is not as nice as the stock item.
  • Look for warning signs:  Do they sell multiple of the same items or a lot of high end items but it’s not clear how a person could own that much?  Personally, I prefer to buy things from seller’s that are not buying items in bulk or are not just buying from a local consignment place and selling for a higher price.  I want to know the history of the item, not have it be 3rd or 4th hand.
  • Know the website’s return policy:  This is HUGE.
  • Know the website’s authentication process for high-end designer items.  A guarantee of authenticity is NOT the same as having the item authenticated by the company; rather, it just means that you get a refund if you (on your own) figure out if the item is counterfeit.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions about the item, even as simple as “are there any stains or defects”– that way you have a record that you asked!

In my next post, I will discuss specific resale sites, and give an in-depth review of Poshmark and Tradesy, the two sites I sell from.  Feel free to ask any questions!


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 woman 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…