New York, NY
"Nothing should stop you from achieving your dreams."
Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money and I grew up around blue collar, working class families who were similar to us in terms of how many resources they had. At the same time, I would often go into work with my parents at the American Museum of Natural History—I felt like I was straddling two worlds but didn’t know how to make a way in either one.
To overcome these barriers, I learned how to gather many of these resources on my own. The skillsets associated with gathering your own resources are critical for those who did not come from backgrounds that were rich in resources. That’s what I want to give to others-these toolkits to succeed, so that when they hit these barriers they are ready to face them and overcome them. I want them to realize that nothing should stop you from achieving your dreams.
My pathway to geoscience has been a meandering one. I always had an interest in the natural world, and loved to go into work with my parents at the American Museum of Natural History, where I would draw most of the day. In undergrad I first majored in Studio Art, creating large oil paintings inspired by natural history dioramas at the Museum. I then interned at the Museum as an exhibit preparator, aiding in creating large dioramas for traveling exhibits. Working with scientific curators and artists at the Museum led me to double major in Anthropology and go on to earn my Master's in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology. This is where I began to study extinct and living dinosaur anatomy and evolution. I now am earning my doctorate in Geology at UT Austin, where I continue to research the evolutionary relationships of these animals.
Honing my visual skills for so long has given me an advantage in studying anatomy, especially fossilized skeletons and soft tissue, as paleontology is a field where much of the data and data processesing requires keen visual discernment. My unique background also allows me to come up with creative solutions to scientific problems. Because of this I would encourage creative people, especially artists, to not rule out a career in geoscience.
The surprising thing is...
I believe that the best scientists work without compartmentalization of their life experiences, values, and skillsets. You are the sum of these and your unique combination of these things will provide valuable contriutions to science. Even the most "impossible" problems in science can be elucidated-they probably just haven't been approached in the right way. You do not need to choose one box to fit into as a person, artist or scientist.
If the resources, skillsets, and funding that you need is not available to you, learn how to gather these things on your own. For me, this meant reaching out to others via email or phone, applying for grants, and applying for internships and other experiences. The most straightforward path is not possible for everyone, and I actually think that the meandering path you creatively build on your own will provide much greater rewards.