As a middle school student in eastern Massachusetts, Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) research scientist Christina Patricola became fascinated with the snowstorms that frequently blanketed her hometown—and quickly recognized her passion for atmospheric science.
But despite her early interest, Patricola says she doesn’t know if she would have continued on a scientific career path without having a mentor for inspiration.
That’s why she chose to spend time talking with East Bay students at California State University’s STEM Career Awareness Day (held on April 27 at the Aquatic Park Center in Berkeley) to let them know it’s possible to transform scientific curiosity into a career.
“It’s really important for students to see someone doing what they’re interested in and be able to talk to them about how you got there, what you needed to do, and about some of the challenges you experienced,” said Patricola, who has a doctorate in atmospheric science. She studies how hurricanes are affected by climate variability and global climate change using computational models for the CASCADE (a Berkeley Lab, University of California-Berkeley, and UC Davis) project.
EESA research scientist Daniel Feldman and Patricola set up an EESA informational table at STEM Career Awareness Day. They gave insight to many of the 300 participants (who came from Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and Emeryville) into what it’s like to be a scientist, talked about the research conducted at EESA and Berkeley Lab, and encouraged them to apply for the Lab’s student internship opportunities. Students also got a chance to learn more about the Arctic surface and subsurface by exploring a model built by EESA Research Associate Robin Lopez.
“The most common questions we got were about where we went to college, what classes we took, and what we do at work,” Patricola said. “The students were also curious about what climate models are and what sort of observations scientists collect in their research.”
Berkeley Lab’s Biosciences Area also participated in the daylong event, with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville welcoming students for a tour of its research facilities. Jennifer Tang, Berkeley Lab’s Federal and Community Relations Director, served as an on-site tour chaperone. And the Lab’s Workforce Development & Education department contributed educational materials.
“There are a lot of students who might not have people at home who they can talk to about what it’s like to go to graduate school and become a scientist,” Patricola said. “It’s important for EESA to encourage the next generation of students to be interested in tackling problems related to earth and the environment, as issues like water security will continue to be important in the future.”