I’ve been radio silent for the summer because as I wrote in my last post, being back has been somewhat overwhelming. Initially, it was adjusting to being back in the US. Then it was traveling all over the place – I’ll be writing about my jaunts to San Francisco and St. Louis which swiftly followed my New York excursion. And lately it has been work. Of course, as I’m finally getting into the swing of things, the summer will soon be swiftly transitioning from research on Cape Cod to classes (and research) in Cambridge. I’ll be moving to Somerville (write me if you’d like my address!), navigating the whole “being a student” thing again, adjusting to city life, and trying to aim for a healthier work-life balance than I had in undergrad (meaning kicking some bad habits of over-volunteering, working at all hours of the night, etc). I’m on my way and excited, but certainly, there will be a lot of growing pains.
I want to take a second to discuss another overwhelming thing: exposure to media in a way that is way more direct and personal than when I was abroad. This Google thing – I’ve got a lot of feelings about it. Most of them involve feeling exhausted at dealing with this rhetoric, which I’ve heard again and again and again. Here is something I’ve found that resonates well with my perspective. Basically, while I respect his argument, and even agree with a few of his points that conservatives should not feel attacked in the workplace, and men should be allowed to break their gendered stereotypes too, I fundamentally disagree with the conclusions he draws based upon his evidence. If you’d like to talk to me more about that, hit me up. I would love to chat about it. And today, as I sat writing this post, the news coming from Charlottesville just sent me reeling. I was receiving the news real-time – when I was away, it would always be with an offset, a feeling of separation, a buffer. Now, I don’t need to explain anything to anyone or face questions about the news like I did there, but it feels more personal and isolating. And the events described in this news are abhorrent. The actual, physical violence is truly domestic terrorism. And it frustrates me that we (we being highest level leadership and some media) won’t recognize white supremacy for the vile and misguided hatred that it is. It has been emotionally draining to have so much news all the time to consume. It is little wonder that global events (like the elections in Germany, continued migrant landings in the Mediterranean, etc) fly under the radar – the amount of purely domestic news can take hours of time just to read – and many more to try to comprehend.
If you’re interested in what you can do about these most recent events, check out, support, or learn more about:
- Women in Tech
- Vigils for Charlottesville
- Write to your representatives to take a public stance on the events in Charlottesville (if they haven’t already)
- Learn about local civil liberties groups or committees
- Talk to your company’s diversity manager, or learn about the diversity policies
- Offer support to those who may be directly affected by recent events
- Volunteer, or support volunteers in organizations which provide STEM outreach to underrepresented populations
But I’m not constantly reading the news. And I try to balance and vent my frustration in healthy ways. And I’ve had a fair amount going on this summer to distract from some of the most overwhelming things. I had the fortune to travel all over the country, visiting a new city and a previously enjoyed city. Right after my trip to New York, I flew myself and Ali (my lovely sibling) to San Francisco for Pride. Having never been to San Francisco or a Pride event before, we were both pretty pumped. While the weekend was short (36 hours on the ground), I think that we both left feeling energized by the natural beauty and dynamism of the city, as well as the festivities. There was just so much self-love, tolerance, and legitimization as part of the Pride celebration, and it was electric. And it made me proud to be a citizen of this country, and a member of humanity again.
We also enjoyed the opportunity to walk around and explore Buena Vista park (spoilers: it does in fact have a great view), and Golden Gate Park. We lucked out with nearly perfect weather. We agreed that we have to go back to experience the city with a bit more time on our hands.
Cut to a few weeks later, and I was in St. Louis. If you’ve talked to me for more than 5 minutes about my life in the last 2 years, you’ve definitely heard me talk about my time in the greater St. Louis area when I worked at Ivani. I am just completely enamored with that company, and that city. Visiting former colleagues/friends and revisiting old haunts like Forest Park was a treat, and spurred a lot of reflection about my current trajectory as an academic, rather than an industry engineer.
And between trips, and after, I’ve been occupied with my work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as part of kicking off my doctoral degree studies as a (an? acronyms are difficult at times) MIT-WHOI Joint Program (JP) student. Right now I’m working on developing autonomy routines to allow for ocean robots (like unmanned boats) to map out chemical plumes. Essentially: I get data from various lasers on a robot to make maps of what those lasers see. My adviser is particularly interested in methane, so that’s been an interesting focus at the moment. In July we collected some data from a river site on Cape Cod in which cleaned wastewater is pumped. Once we understand how to detect the difference between “normal” river water and “the plume” of treated water, we should be able to encode a robot’s behaviors to capture more relevant information for a scientist studying the interaction.
Wastewater treatment sites may not be as glamorous as submerged archaeological sites, but it’s a start. One of the most exciting things about this research, in my opinion, is the extensibility of the robot platform to measure and map a variety of scientifically interesting phenomenon: like chemical plumes from hydrothermal vents, or methane seeps in lakes or in fjords or from calving glaciers. Or perhaps we could map oil slicks. Or micro-algae blooms. The impact here is that the typical methods for surveying data like this take a lot of time, and yield very sparse data. Imagine the river. A scientist crew will go out in kayaks or a little boat, go to a handful of pre-determined point on the river, and take multiple bottle samples, which need to be processed in a lab later. A vehicle can take near continuous measurements – hundreds to thousands of measurements – in the same time, with near real time information available for analysis. More data, in this case, can lead to better modeling of phenomenon with real-impact: in wastewater treatment for example, one could imagine policy changes about effluent pumping based upon some results. Or for scientists studying ocean acidification at natural venting or seep sites, results which can better inform climate change models. And so on.
A perk of my time at WHOI is that I get to work in Woods Hole. Which is just so lovely. And I get to live on Cape Cod, which has this laid back atmosphere and a number of really lovely natural landscapes to enjoy (when not chasing down chemicals with robots).
Despite the challenges of adjusting to home, I enjoyed a relatively quiet summer of resetting and reflecting with a healthy dose of adventure. And now I’m ready to tackle what’s next. Bring it on!