Curiosity about the solar system has been the driving force behind my career as a planetary geochemist, NASA mission science team member, asteroid miner, and applied planetary scientist.
After earning a Ph.D. in planetary geochemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I worked on NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury. I leveraged that mission experience as Director of Data Products at Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company. There I led a team in the science definition of an asteroid prospecting mission.
From this experience, I found my passion for working in NewSpace at the intersection of planetary science and space mission engineering. Now as an Applied Planetary Scientist at First Mode, I provide innovative commercial solutions to the engineering challenges faced by earth and planetary scientists who seek to robotically explore our solar system.
I also share my experiences as a planetary scientist worked at the intersections—the colliding worlds—of academia & commercial space and scientists & engineers in my blog, Colliding Worlds:
After a few years of working with engineers, I look back on my MESSENGER experience with a fresh perspective and an appreciation for the engineers I never met who created and operated the spacecraft. Now at First Mode, I use this experience to bridge the communication gap between scientists and engineers.
Every time a spaceflight failure occurs, the phrase “space is hard” will invariably be uttered in response. What is it that makes space so hard?
I organized a successful panel about non-academic careers at a planetary science conference. However, I had previously underestimated the level of toxicity regarding nontraditional career paths despite having experienced it firsthand.
The first step in effecting change is admitting that there is a problem. In order to disrupt the status quo, the planetary science community must first make changes in our culture and assumptions regarding missions.
All too often, Ph.D. students leave grad school with no idea of how to find jobs outside a traditional academic or research career track. If you’re in that boat, here are some resources to get started.
Interested in working in commercial space but not sure which companies to target in your job search? Check out this map of the NewSpace ecosystem.
With the advances in small satellite technology and the success of the MarCO CubeSats at Mars, it's time to revisit lessons from NASA's 1990s Faster, Better, Cheaper era.
One of the most critical elements of a successful space mission is effective communication between two species: scientists and engineers.
Here are some resources for figuring out what non-academic career options might be available to you.
I want to break this stigma of leaving academia by describing why I left. I didn’t have anyone to turn to who could validate my feelings, so I hope that I can do that for others.
I left academia because I didn’t feel like it was the right environment for me, despite my love of planetary science. Here I describe my journey going from academia into industry.
Many commercial space companies don’t seem to think they need planetary scientists on staff. They are wrong.
Upon hearing the word “networking,” most people probably envision a room full of strangers, mediocre hors d'oeuvres, and moderate to high levels of anxiety. It’s the worst, right?
If you start applying to industry jobs without first doing these three things, your application will just be flushed down the digital toilet.
Some people think they would be happy in industry until they learn more about it. As you consider whether to pursue a career in industry, consider these 3 questions that I always ask when interviewing academics.
After identifying interesting sectors in industry, it’s time to narrow your focus and discover potential positions and employers. Here’s how.
Developing a roadmap for your new career direction will require serious thinking about your interests and priorities. The first step I took was to isolate myself from distractions and scribble stream-of-consciousness answers to these questions.
Anyone who’s been in a Ph.D. program knows the term “mastering out”: leaving a Ph.D program and getting a masters as a “consolation prize”. While there’s no slang to describe someone who leaves research, in planetary science, the scorn is no less insidious.
Through this blog, I hope to reframe the narrative about planetary scientists leaving academia, provide direction I didn’t have on how to get an industry job, and share insight into the space mission engineering process from a NewSpace perspective.