Questions about the Astroscience's for Graduate Students and Professionals

Hello All,

I have a few questions, but I will also introduce myself a little as I am new to SAGANet. I am currently a senior at Washington State University Vancouver obtaining a Bachelor in Biology. I became interested and learned about astrobiology in my microbiology course, and since then I have been trying to gather information about the field and it's research. There is so much I don't know where to start! My original intent with my Biology degree was to become a high school science teacher, which is still a possibility, but I never really saw myself in research or working in a scientific career field till recently. So a few of my questions are centered around the process of conducting research as well. 

I've picked some of my top questions as to begin the discussion, and might add more later. I thought these would be a good start! 

How did you get interested in the astro-sciences and what was your career path on the way to your current post-doc opportunity (if you don't mind my asking)?


Are there any companies outside of NASA that are funding research or employing people with Astrobiology/science degrees? If so (or not) how competitive is it to get into a astro-science program/position? I'm not really able to find any statistical information.

What key traits and or skills do you think is important for someone to have when they go into academia/research? 

When working, do you utilize mainly one branch of science or is there a blend of multiple sciences? 

And last but not least, what is the most enjoyable part of your work and why?

Thank you for your answers everyone!

Kai

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Hello Kai,

Thanks for your questions! Let me give them a stab:

1. How did you get interested in the astro-sciences and what was your career path on the way to your current post-doc opportunity (if you don't mind my asking)?

I've been personally interested in all thing astro since being a very young kid. I started off in engineering with a BS, then an MS in aerospace engineering. It was during my MS that I discovered the discipline of astrobiology, which prompted me to start graduate school again, but this time in Earth and Space sciences. Deciding to change majors after 6 years of college was not an easy decision to make! But it turned out amazingly. After obtaining my PhD, I went to NASA Ames for my postdoc, and have been there since, working for the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, a science & science education non-profit.


2. Are there any companies outside of NASA that are funding research or employing people with Astrobiology/science degrees? If so (or not) how competitive is it to get into a astro-science program/position? I'm not really able to find any statistical information.

One doesn't get an Astrobiology degree. I see astrobiology as a framework onto which scientists from different disciplines work together on to answer some of humanities most profound questions. I wrote about this on another SAGANet post here: http://saganet.org/forum/topics/so-you-want-to-become-an-astrobiolo.... For example, my approach to astrobiology is through the geological sciences. Some of my colleagues work on astrobiology from the perspective of physics, or atmospheric sciences, or oceanography.. Given one's expertise, one tunes research questions towards astrobiology.

Astro-science is a very broad category, because it includes Astronomy, Astrophysics, Astronautics, and all the other sciences that can have an astrobiology focus, so in that sense, because of its broadness, you will find a program somewhere that suits your needs and interests, in addition to an employer. Astrobiologists are inherently inter-disciplinary, so they are well suited for the workforce. Without some precision to your question, I can't be more precise than this.

3. What key traits and or skills do you think is important for someone to have when they go into academia/research? 

Perhaps the key skill is to be well organized, since you will inherently have a great deal going at the same time. Another key skill is to be genuinely interested in how the world works. If you have these two, the rest will follow.

4. When working, do you utilize mainly one branch of science or is there a blend of multiple sciences? 

I chose astrobiology because of its blend, and so yes my work is quite trans-disciplinary. The key topics you should know well before going into any field of science these days, are statistics, and computer programming. Knowing these two will make you very marketable.

5. And last but not least, what is the most enjoyable part of your work and why?

I'm lucky to say that I love my job. I very much enjoy working on problems that have not been tackled before, the travel to cool field sites, the amazing intellectual diversity of my colleagues, and the great deal of intellectual independence I have. Don't get me wrong, all this is a great deal of work, but it comes with high satisfaction.

Hope these help! Feel free to follow up.

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