|Posted on Dec 12, 2012 08:45:46 AM | Beth Brumbaugh | 0 Comments ||
Today let us introduce you to Amber Kuss from NASA Ames Research Center. Amber is the Center Lead for the DEVELOP Program's Ames location. NASA's DEVELOP Program is a student-led research internship that focuses on utilizing NASA Earth observations to address community concerns and public policy issues.Image Credit: Carl Bean-Larson
What inspired you to apply for DEVELOP?
While I was working on my master’s degree at San Francisco State University, I became engaged in GIS and remote sensing through coursework, however it was a fellow classmate who inspired me to apply for DEVELOP. Michelle Newcomer, a previous DEVELOP Center Lead, gave a presentation during our Hydrogeology class about projects she had been working on using remote sensing for wetland restoration. Her excitement and professionalism impressed me, and I was drawn to the idea of being able to conduct hands-on research.
What interests you most about Earth science?
Our personal connections to nature and the role humans play in natural resource management interests me the most about Earth science. As an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to participate in an intensive field work course in the southwestern U.S. This course allowed me to primarily focus on field work and exploration, and this really sparked a continuing passion for Earth science. As a current researcher, I am fascinated by the influence of technology and engineering in Earth science, and how we can study geological and ecological phenomena from hundreds of miles away. I think that with this emergent technology, the progression of Earth science will increase dramatically.
What role does NASA play in your life/career?
The greatest role of NASA in my life and certainly my career are the people I have the opportunity to work with. Coming to work every day and being surrounded by some of the most intelligent people on the planet challenges you to think intellectually and allows you to be creative and unrestricted in your research ideas.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
As a young adult, I would have said my greatest accomplishment was winning the state golf championship when I was 16. However, as my career in science is progressing, my most current accomplishment is the completion of my master’s degree. When I submitted my monstrous thesis into the printing office, I felt pretty great!
Can you describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision and what you learned as a consequence?
One of the greatest decisions of my life and career was the decision to go back to school for my master’s degree. After I obtained a B.S. in Geoscience from the College of Charleston, I began working for an Environmental Consulting firm as a Staff Geologist. At first, the job was ideal; I was making more money than I ever had before, I had free time to enjoy the city and the beach, and I was working in my chosen field. However, after about six months, I began to wonder if I was not challenging myself enough intellectually. I then began to apply for master's programs all over the country, and decided on a few in California. While it was difficult to decide on the right place to attend, one of the largest obstacles was moving across the country to a place where I had never spent much time, and where I knew no one. While this was daunting, I gathered up my courage, and made the leap. What I gained surpassed my expectations, and I began to think about academia and science as a career. I learned that the greatest challenges in life can sometimes be the most rewarding, and I will now always be open to turning my life upside down for the benefits that come with change.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life, and what lessons did they teach you?
My father is quite a character; his long hair, loud mouth, and uncompromising attitude towards just about anything in life may lead people to think he is a wild guy. While this may be true, my father has influenced my life in so many ways from instilling the ideals of hard work, to a focus on the environment and how we interact with it, and for his never-ending skepticism. As a past employee for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, he worked for over 20 years to face tough issues of water contamination and pollution from large industrial facilities, such as the steel mills along Lake Michigan. He always displayed a passion for his work and taught me a great deal about the difficulties of environmental regulation. He has also taught me to face challenges in life head on, and to be open to new opportunities, like when he left a job he held for over 20 years to become the manager of the sanitation district for Michigan City, Indiana. He has shown me that I don’t have to compromise my beliefs and plans for the future and that with hard work we can help to improve our life and others.
How has your career surprised you or given you unexpected opportunities?
My career with NASA has really pushed me to pursue my academic journey. I began in the DEVELOP Program while in my master’s program at San Francisco State University. When I first began, I thought I would just obtain my master’s and move into a career. However, being able to work on real-world research and working with other students sparked my interest in pursuing academia and becoming a professor. I am now a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Environmental Studies Department. Additionally, my work with our partner agencies has opened me up in new ways to the idea of scientific communication and I am passionate about working as a bridge to ensure that scientific research will be beneficial to the community. In order for science to be directly useful to our society, we must be able to speak with people of all different backgrounds and take our heads out of the “researchers’ realm” to make our science useful.
What does your future hold?
I am hopeful that at some point in the future I will be able to get that elusive “Dr.” in front of my name, but more importantly, I hope to work as a teacher to the next generation of scientists. It is my goal to work either at a university or in a government career that allows me to connect researchers and students back to their community.
What one piece of advice would you like to pass on to those who read your story?
I would advise young professionals and students to take risks and be open to major changes in your life. Don’t be afraid to totally change your outlook, career path, or research plans. These changes allow us to think outside the box, and be connected with new experience that will help expand our intellectual thinking. Oh yeah, and have some fun!
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