Feature

Text Size

World of Opportunity
01.20.05
 

Who Are NASA's Earth Explorers?

The elementary school student questioning if El Niño occurs anywhere besides the Pacific Ocean. The researcher investigating connections between Arctic ozone depletion and global climate change. The citizen scientist interested in how changing land cover and use affects animal migration patterns. And the businessperson projecting future needs for harvest, delivery and storage of crops. All of these people are Earth Explorers -- they are all connected by their curiosity about Earth system processes. This series will introduce you to NASA Earth Explorers, young and old, with a variety of backgrounds and interests.


How did a place Camille Daniels never went to get her interested in science? How does Erica Holloman plan to reach out to younger generations? These two aspiring scientists, both of whom are enrolled in the MS PHD'S® (Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science) program, talked to Earth Explorers about these and other topics.

MS PHD'S®, sponsored by NASA, is a professional development program developed by and for underrepresented minorities, with the overall purpose of increasing their participation in Earth system science. The program provides undergraduate and graduate students with increased exposure to the Earth system science community, improved professional skills and networking opportunities.

Camille Daniels
Camille Daniels Q&A

Camille Daniels is currently pursuing a master's degree in marine sciences from the University of South Florida. Her research is focused on monitoring the health of coral reefs.

Image to right: Camille Daniels is an aspiring scientist who enrolled in the MS PHD'S® (Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science) program. Credit: NASA

Earth Explorers: How did you become interested in science?

Daniels: I never had the opportunity to visit my grandfather while he lived in the Virgin Islands. But my father would return from trips there with photographs of amazing blue water. Growing up in Louisiana, the only place I could find comparable water was in the swimming pool -- the Mississippi River did not resemble what I saw in those pictures. This started my fascination with science and the ocean.

Earth Explorers: What do you like best about your work?

Daniels: It is challenging, yet fulfilling, to know that your work can contribute to understanding the environment and its related human impacts. I enjoy the combination of interdisciplinary curriculum, research, field work, and the presentation of findings to peers. Other advantages include the opportunity for collaboration across fields of study, and guidance and advice from scientists at different stages in their careers.

Earth Explorers: What subjects in school have helped you the most?

Daniels: Any type of mathematics was number one for me from elementary through high school. English, although not necessarily my favorite, helped me communicate more effectively and develop a respect for literature. In college, I also took a course in audio recording techniques, which was a great way to incorporate science, math, music and teamwork.

Earth Explorers: What are your career goals?

Daniels: I hope to complete a doctoral program in biological oceanography at the University of South Florida. From then on, my preference is to work across the globe with other scientists on various projects pertaining to coral reef health. Service with environmental agencies or consulting firms is also a consideration.

Earth Explorers: Who were your role models growing up?

Daniels: My parents. They instilled in me that an informed person can be unstoppable, and that an education is key.

Earth Explorers: What advice do you have for other minority women interested in pursuing a career in science?

Daniels: Walking into a class of 300 people and finding only one or two other people who look like you -- it's quite daunting. I would advise other underrepresented females to search for a good mentor and support network of colleagues. Do not allow others to make you feel undeserving of achieving excellence in science.

Erica Holloman
Erica Holloman Q&A

Erica Holloman is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in environmental sciences from the College of William and Mary's Virginia Institute for Marine Science. Her area of research is "ecotoxicology," the science aimed at understanding how toxic substances and chemicals affect natural ecosystems.

Image to right: Erica Holloman is an aspiring scientist who enrolled in the MS PHD'S® (Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science) program. Credit: Hampton University

Earth Explorers: How did you become interested in science?

Holloman: Ever since I was a child, I have always been curious about the "how" and "why" of the natural world. My mother noticed this and at an early age began to nurture the scientist within me. She told me that the world of science was at my fingertips and my dream of becoming a scientist was possible. Her confidence in me and my love for science only augmented my interest in the field.

Earth Explorers: What do you like best about your work?

Holloman: The opportunity to learn in an academic environment from some of the leading scientists in the field of marine science.

Earth Explorers: What subjects in school have helped you the most?

Holloman: English, math, and all science subjects, as well as African American history. Math is the actual language of science. Any person interested in science also has to be interested in math because they really go hand in hand. African American history gave me an opportunity to see that African Americans have been making contributions to the scientific world for a long time.

Earth Explorers: What are your career goals?

Holloman: After obtaining my Ph.D. in environmental sciences, I intend to continue investigating environmental change as it pertains to anthropogenic issues. I will seek to establish myself as an expert in applied research that contributes to the scientific, technological and practical goals of ecotoxicology. Also, having succeeded thus far in a discipline traditionally underrepresented by minorities, it is essential that I reach out to the younger generation. I see my greatest contribution as being my commitment to develop and execute science education and outreach programs within underserved communities.

Earth Explorers: Who were your role models growing up?

Holloman: My grandmother, mother and father. They helped to instill confidence in me so that I could believe that it's ok to be in a field that's not dominated by people who look like me.

Earth Explorers: What advice do you have for minority women interested in pursuing a career in science?

Holloman: One of the most important challenges I have faced in the scientific world has been dispelling the myths and stereotypes about young, minority females in a field dominated by older, white males. My advice to other underrepresented females interested in pursuing a career in science: 1) Don't doubt your place in the field of science. Often you may be the only woman or minority woman, but don't let that discourage you from pursuing your dream; 2) Develop a support network for yourself. Everyone needs love and support, especially in a field where one is in the minority; and 3) Understand your history. For me, understanding the great legacy and contributions African Americans have made globally fuels my desire to also add my contributions to that list.

See previous Earth Explorers articles:
+ View site

Related Resources
MS PHD'S®
+ View site

Minority University-Space Interdisciplinary Network
+ View site

Underground Railroad: Connections to Freedom and Science
+ View site

 
 
Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies