FEEDBACK Sciences and Exploration Directorate - Early Career Spotlight

Early Career Scientist Spotlights ("ECSS")

Early Career Scientist Spotlight ("ECSS") articles showcase the early career scientists working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The ECSS articles are intended to highlight the research interests, science motivations, and achievements of the early career scientist community, and are a great way to learn a bit about some of the wonderful and interesting people working at Goddard!

If you are a GSFC early career scientist and would like to participate in future ECSS articles, please contact Danielle Simkus, Joe Renaud, Jenna Cann, or any of our NGAPS+ Co-Officers.

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Carina Alden

Space Weather Analyst

"Never. Ever. Give up. There will always be something that could stop you from trying, but if you want it bad enough, your passion will get you through the tough times."
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Gang Kai Poh

Space Physicist

"I often find the process of going outside of my comfort zone to explore new knowledge very rewarding, especially at that “Eureka!” moment when I finally grasp a new concept or idea."
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Akiko Elders

Atmospheric/Biospheric Scientist

"I have always been interested in Earth Science. I can remember as far back as elementary school modeling the impact of global warming using fish tanks, a bright lamp and ice cubes."
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Michela Negro

High-Energy Astrophysicist

"It was only in the last year of high school that I learned about electromagnetism and special relativity, and discovered my deep curiosity about Physics. I needed to know more about it!"
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Aleida Higginson

Heliophysicist

"I was a second year graduate student when I got invited to speak at a heliophysics workshop on my research project. That was incredibly intimidating but it was also so exciting that someone wanted to hear what I had to say!"
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Naomi Rowe-Gurney

Planetary Scientist

"During University, I loved astronomy, but I also loved meteorology. I didn’t know until much later that planetary atmospheric physics existed and that it was a perfect way to study them both."
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Mike Croteau

Satellite Geodesist

"While the idea of working on a mission to another planet or moon fascinated me, I realized that I was most interested in being part of Earth-focused satellite missions, helping to learn about our planet and solve problems here at home."
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Anna Zajczyk

Instrumental Astrophysicist

"The inner workings of the cosmos were fascinating to me from an early age, and this is what ultimately pushed me towards research in astronomy (the dark and starry skies in the village where I grew up helped to light this spark, too)."
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Nithin Sivadas

Space Physicist

"I am inspired by individuals who care about this world enough to seek what is true no matter how uncomfortable it may be, and motivated by those who care about society enough to seek what is just no matter how dangerous."
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Yuni Lee

Planetary Scientist

"I like to be creative and effective in the visualization of science analysis. I think research is truly meaningful when the result is well-communicated to readers, so I like to put time and effort into improving my skills."
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Nishan Kumar Biswas

Hydrologist

"While it is normal for the focus of our scientific careers to be on professional development, including publishing in high impact factor journals, never forget to do your best for humanity."
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Sambid Wasti

High Energy Astrophysist

"When we look at the size and power of these objects in the vast universe, it is humbling to know how insignificant we are in comparison. It is equally motivating to know that, despite that apparent insignificance, we are in a quest to investigate and explore it."
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Henrike Fleischhack

Gamma-ray Astronomer

"I am interested in studying gamma-ray sources such as supernova remnants and gamma-ray bursts, characterizing their energy spectra and light curves and comparing to theoretical models to figure out what makes them 'tick'."
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Samantha Wallace

Solar Physicist

"I am passionate about supporting the next generation of early-career women in STEM and first-generation college grads, and inspiring them to persevere."
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Joe Renaud

Planetary Scientist

"I find it amazing that the quantum mechanics and physics of microscopic grains in rocks and ice can ultimately govern the way an entire planet’s orbit changes over millions of years."
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Reem Hannun

Atmospheric Chemist

"Fieldwork is a nice change of pace from daily life in the lab or office, and it’s really satisfying to see an instrument you’ve worked so hard on go out and collect real measurements."
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Ronald Gamble

Theoretical Astrophysicist

"My mother recalls, vividly, that I first mentioned wanting to work for 'NASA' when I was four years old crunching on cereal in front of my solar system placemat."
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Jessica Noviello

Planetary Geologist

"On Earth, there are 5 major mass extinctions that we know of, and dozens of low-level events. I often wonder, if we assume life existed on an ocean world like Europa or a former one like Mars, what could have happened to wipe that life out by the present?"
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Graham Kerr

Solar Physicist

"The Scottish Space School and my visit to NASA JSC were eye-opening experiences. It became clear to me that studying physics at University would open up many varied opportunities and allow me to study something I was passionate about."
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Niama Boukachaba

Atmospheric Scientist

"A big dream comes true by completing small objectives and learning from our mistakes. Each day is a new one, so enjoy what you are doing, and be happy and proud of your achievements."
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Kyle Helson

Observational Cosmologist

"I really like solving interesting problems and answering big questions about physics and the Universe. I also like that my work involves a lot of different skills and not just one fixed method all of the time."
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Shahryar Khalique Ahmad

Hydrologist

"I am enamored by the notion of user-ready research – one that not only lives inside publications but also reaches the masses who are in need of the science and its applications… and that’s worth putting in all the effort!"
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Yukiko Yarnall

Laboratory Astrochemist

"After my research career, if I were a teacher, I would pass the splendor of science to young people who might want to become scientists and to the elder generation to stimulate their minds."
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Mike Shumko

Magnetospheric Physicist

"As a postdoc, I enjoy the independence to pursue my research ideas and the feeling I get when I discover something interesting."
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Jenna Cann

Astrophysicist

"Thinking about how far light has to travel in order to get to the telescopes I use for observing never fails to motivate me to keep trying to learn everything I can from the data I collect."
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Giuliano Liuzzi

Atmospheric Spectroscopist

"I would like to learn even more about how the instruments that observe planets and atmospheres are built and optimized, as I think it is important to have a critical perspective in how data are collected and analyzed."
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Emily Mason

Solar Physicist

"My favorite days are the ones when I sit down with a new science question and pore over hundreds of EUV observations to unlock the mystery."
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Drew Badger

Hydrometeorologist

"I think one of the coolest aspects of being in a research driven position is that there is always the potential that we will be the first person in the world to know something new, and then we get to tell everybody."
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John Ahlers

Astrophysicist

"We can look at an enormous object an absurdly far distance away and tell whether it is moving toward or away from us (within its system’s frame of reference) to a precision that is slower than the average person’s walking speed. I find that mind-blowing."
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Kira Olsen

Seismologist

"I am always learning new things about planetary science, which in turn gives me new ideas for how to use Earth science data to study icy worlds."
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Ashley Greeley

Magnetospheric Physicist

"I love that part of our goal as research scientists is to discover new things. Some people like to explore the physical unknown in distant continents, but I love the feeling of exploring the universe from my computer."
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Mariel Friberg

Atmospheric Scientist

"I realize the most enjoyable part of my career is a daily occurrence. I get to work on being in a state of inspirational flow that simultaneously develops me personally and professionally."
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Meriem Alaoui Abdallaoui

Solar Physicist

"I love the fact that I get to work on both theory and observations. I also love the fact that I have to adopt ideas from different disciplines and bring them into solar physics."
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Ryan Kramer

Atmospheric Scientist

"I spent an eye-opening summer interning at Goddard during my Sophomore year of college. That summer jumpstarted my passion for research, made me a more critical thinker, and helped me build a lot of confidence."
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Iban Ibañez Domenech

Systems Engineer

"I have enjoyed every second of this challenging journey being part of the most meaningful scientific missions I could have ever imagined."
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Svetlana Shkolyar

Astrobiologist

"Once you achieve a small victory, take the time to celebrate it. There will always be more goals to achieve and more work to be done. Celebrating your small successes is as important as achieving them and a key to feeling fulfilled."
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Tiffany Lewis

Theoretical Astrophysicist

"As a theorist, a large part of what can make a new project interesting is whether it both advances the technical execution of the modeling and our ability to interpret the physical world through a comparison with observed data."
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Cristian Ferradas

Space Physicist

"The aspect of my work I am most passionate about is sharing what I do with other people, whether it be at outreach events or just by explaining science and the excitement of space exploration to my family, friends, or even strangers."
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Adam Erickson

Computational Biosphericist

"Intuition is a powerful tool not only in math but in science, guiding practical and theoretical advances based on a growing foundation of knowledge."
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Erika Kohler

Planetary Scientist

"I thought it was fascinating that other planets could have storms too, and even crazier ones than Earth has. Since then, I was hooked!"
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Mijin Kim

Atmospheric Scientist

"I thought NASA was like an unrealistic place that can only be seen in movies or papers. It became realistic through visiting and collaboration during my Ph.D."
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Nazma Islam

High Energy Astrophysicist

"As a researcher, we need to constantly learn new skills and expand our knowledge in areas which are not exactly related to our field of expertise."
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Iker Liceaga Indart

Mechanical Engineer

"I would encourage all young students to try to find their true passion. It really pays off, as you will find yourself investing most of your time in something that has true meaning for you."
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Shiblee Barua

Computational Astrochemist

"I basically taught myself chemistry while working as a graduate teaching assistant in chemistry labs. My diverse academic background in physics, math and chemistry has helped me immensely in pursuing my career as a Computational Astrochemist."
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Remya Bhanu

Space Physicist

"It took me until the end of high school to realize that I did not have the vocation to be a doctor and that physics and chemistry were the subjects that captivated me most."
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Ethan Kruse

Exoplanet Astronomer

"I hope that by the end of my career we have detailed studies of the atmospheres of hundreds of Earth-like planets and maybe even signs of life elsewhere in the galaxy."
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Luoth Chou

Astrobiologist

"This curiosity drove me to wonder where life came from, and eventually made me question how life started and whether life can be 'out there'."
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Elijah Orland

Geomorphologist

"I eventually realized later in my studies that my interest in being outside wasn’t purely recreational—I wanted to learn more about what made my favorite places tick."
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Bea Gallardo-Lacourt

Space Physicist

"I was told by many people that I was wasting my time pursuing a scientific career and, although this was discouraging, I decided to take it as a challenge and prove them wrong."
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Beck Strauss

Planetary Geophysicist

"Geology is the science of understanding why the natural world is the way it is – why that mountain is over there, how this river got here, what that moon's magnetic field was doing a few billion years ago."
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Armaghan Abed-Elmdoust

Hydroscientist

"My long-term future research activities will be centered on sustainable water resources management and improving hydrological modeling. These are critical subjects to human societies."
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Benson Guest

X-ray Astrophysicist

"Volunteering at outreach events or teaching first year astronomy labs helped me take a step back so that the numbers and pixels on the screen once again became the giant spinning magnets at the centre of explosions in space."
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Yingxi Rona Shi

Atmospheric Scientist

"There is a sense of fulfillment the moment you discover a solution that solves a mystery."
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Danna Qasim

Experimental Astrochemist

"The research accomplishment that I am most proud of is my first first-author paper from my master's, because it was THE underdog paper."
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Danielle Gurgew

X-ray Astrophysicist

"I really enjoy the hands-on aspect of building and creating hardware that ultimately will be flown on earth-orbiting X-ray telescopes."
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Raphael Attié

Solar Astronomer

"Understanding how the Sun and other Sun-like stars power themselves and what makes them erupt has become not just a fundamental astrophysical question, but also a societal necessity."
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Denis Felikson

Cryospheric Scientist

"Writing a science research proposal is like putting together a puzzle: you choose what science questions you want to answer, what tools you will use, and who will be on your team."
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Casey Honniball

Lunar Scientist

"Right now, I focus on lunar water, but I am working to expand to other volatiles to make a comprehensive understanding of volatiles on the lunar surface."
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Michael Kirk

Solar Physicist

"Taking incredibly complex questions or ideas and breaking them down into bite-sized pieces that anyone can understand is my favorite part about being a professional scientist."
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Teresa Monsue

Astro/Helio Physicist

"I remember trying to count [the stars] at a young age, but giving up on it quickly. I felt that there was something bigger out there to understand."
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Burcu Kosar

Atmospheric Physicist

"Don't be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, that's where the greatest things happen!"
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Carl Malings

Air Quality Researcher

"I'm really looking forward to exploring the campus and getting to meet in person everyone who I've only met virtually so far."
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Alain Khayat

Planetary Scientist

"I am so amazed by how much one could learn about remote objects in the universe when analyzing the light that is received from them."
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Gioia Rau

Astrophysicist

"Resilience, perseverance, grit, and hard work are some of the magic ingredients behind every successful scientist."
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Melissa Ugelow

Atmospheric Chemist

"Something that amazes me is the diversity in the outer solar system moons."
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Odutayo Raji Rufai

Space Physicist

"The first inspiration was, of course, my older brother.... He informed me that I can veer into any profession with a degree in Mathematics."
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Zachary Erickson

Oceanographer

"I would like to help understand the potential benefits and risks associated with ocean-centric climate change mitigation."
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Carolyn Kierans

High-Energy Astrophysicist

"I really enjoy working on new mission concepts. You get to ask yourself: What type of measurements would I like to make to further understand our Universe?"
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