All posts by Sock Robot

Bee Chelse

Name: Bee Chelse
Age: 29
Location: Chicago
Occupation:  Medical Student

Bee Chelse is probably where the saying “busy like a bee” comes from. She wakes up at 4AM and works all day as a medical student, doing everything from assisting doctors with surgeries to shuttling specimens to the lab. Her days don’t end until nearly 8PM, when she returns home to sleep. Not only is she buzzing around trying to treat people who need medical help, but in her limited spare time she likes to strap on her sneakers and run! It’s hard to keep pace with this Chicago resident, but to achieve her goals requires the same things a marathon runner needs for victory: speed and dedication.

After moving to Las Vegas from Brazil as a child, Bee spent her formative years with an assortment of relatives. Although she doesn’t look back fondly on her time in that sweltering Nevada city, she’s grateful that she met her three closest friends there. They all moved to Chicago and are still extremely close to this day. Bee’s interest in medicine didn’t begin in Vegas, or even while she was in school. It was only after high-school, when she began working with the organization Families For Early Autism Treatment, that she became intrigued with child neurology. Continue reading Bee Chelse

Catherine Qualtrough

Name: Catherine Qualtrough
Age: 33
Location: Charlotte, NC
Occupation: Astrophysicist

Catherine Qualtrough remembers looking up at the Milky Way when she was a child walking to her grandparents’ house. The rural area where she grew up, near Hamilton, New Zealand, was untouched by light pollution at the time, so scoping a celestial view while on a stroll wasn’t an impossibility.

Catherine remembers the particular moment in her childhood where her love affair with astronomy and astrophysics began. There was a school project where she studied Halley’s Comet and its return to the skies. “I was so amazed that this giant glowing snowball was speeding through our solar system and had been for hundreds of years and that by merely looking up I could see this happening,” she recalls. For weeks she dragged her parents out of the house at 3AM to stare at the sky with binoculars. Her parents could tell that their daughter had found something she was passionate about, so they contacted a member of the local astronomical society. He invited ten-year-old Catherine to look through his homemade reflecting telescope. “Again, my parents were there shivering through the night while I stood on a box and got my first look at Saturn’s rings, Mars and Jupiter’s moons. I was sold. From then on I read Astronomy magazine every month and begged my parents incessantly for a telescope,” she says.

Continue reading Catherine Qualtrough

Danielle Stolzenberg

Name: Danielle Stolzenberg, PhD
Age: 28
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Occupation: Postdoctoral Fellow

Having a Ph.D. isn’t enough to secure a job these days, especially if you’re a scientist. That’s why Danielle Stolzenberg is dedicating nearly four years of her life to an academic residency known as a postdoctoral position. Danielle studies the neurobiology of maternal behavior, which is a fancy way of saying that she tries to figure out how and why mothers respond to their infants’ stimuli. Last year she graduated with a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Boston College, but it’s not as if this Cool Girl was a scientist from birth.

Growing up in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Danielle wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, but she knew she hated the science fair and lima beans. “I wasn’t particularly good at science, and I definitely wasn’t a fan of it,” she says. This is a huge difference from the girl who, during the first week of her “Physiological Psychology” class in college, went to the registrar and changed her major and degree from a BA to a BS in order to pursue a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. “Physiological Psychology was rumored to be the most difficult of all the psychology classes, and even though I had never been a straight A student up till that point, from the day I stepped foot in that class everything changed. I got it on a level that seemed to make everything else make sense,” she remembers. She was hooked. As Danielle puts it, “Neuroscience was like the “gateway drug” for me.”

Continue reading Danielle Stolzenberg

Holly Griffith

Name: Holly Griffith
Age: 32
Location: Houston, TX
Occupation: Engineer/Space Shuttle Flight Controller

When a child declares that they want to be an astronaut when they grow up, rarely do they stick with that idea all the way through adulthood. Holly Griffith is an exception to the rule. Growing up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, she always wanted to be an astronaut, and today she’s one of the people behind the scenes when space shuttles hit the sky.

Holly was greatly influenced by her father, who was a huge fan of science fiction, Star Wars, and Star Trek. Her family also had a telescope, which allowed this young Princess Leia wannabe to gaze at the stars. Holly’s dad helped her to build a rich fantasy life, which she needed to combat the very real medical emergencies that occurred all too regularly at her house.

“My dad had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). He would have to be rushed to the emergency room at random times of the day or night because he wouldn’t be able to breathe. When I was younger, my mom wouldn’t want to leave me alone in the house, so I would go along. Lots of times it would be at two or three in the morning, and we would stay there for several hours. Because of this, I’d miss part of school the next morning, so I was continuously having to catch up on my work,” Holly recalls.

Even though she played catch-up in school, and faced health crises at home, Holly never felt that she was limited. Her parents always told her that she could achieve anything she desired, and they stressed the importance of education. She was pushed to get a degree, and was supported by her parents as she decided to study engineering, with the hope that one day she could work for NASA. Using her engineering degree and applying her passion for space allowed Holly to become a Flight Controller for the Space Shuttle Electrical Power System after applying for a job at Johnson Space Center.

Although the work varies tremendously depending on their schedule, a typical, non-flying day for Holly consists of training simulations, ranging from four to eight hours, and then a Flight Controller Training Session for two hours. There’s also paperwork and meetings, just like any other job. When there’s a shuttle flying, three teams work in Mission Control non-stop. “On the last Shuttle mission, STS-131, I was coming in at 1AM and getting off at 10AM,” Holly says. “We also work weekends and holidays. Orbital mechanics don’t change for our calendars!”

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Holly’s first certified flight was STS-117. She remembers that all did not go as planned. “Some of the computers on the International Space Station stopped working, these computers controlled altitude adjustments for the Station. We were docked and having to use the Shuttle to control the altitude for the Station, since it couldn’t do it on its own. We had to power down and conserve fuel so that we could stay docked longer and give engineers on the ground more time to troubleshoot the problem. If we didn’t, then we’d have to abandon the Station,” she says. “Luckily, we figured out what was causing the problem and we were able to fix it, but when it was all going on it was very stressful.” Talk about a hard day at work! Continue reading Holly Griffith

Melanie Matchett Wood

Name: Melanie Matchett Wood
Age: 28
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Occupation: Mathematics Professor

So much for the notion that girls aren’t good with numbers. Melanie Matchett Wood is a groundbreaking mathematician, Math Olympian, and the first woman to win the Morgan Prize in mathematics. Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, Melanie thought of being a physicist, cognitive scientist, and even an Educational Testing Service test writer (a writer for the SATs.) But in 7th grade she became involved in a program known as MathCounts (www.mathcounts.org), and suddenly the problem of what to be when she grew up was solved.

“One key thing about MathCounts that really drew me into mathematics were that the problems were so much more interesting than the math I learned in school. A lot of the math in school was just memorizing and repeating certain steps over and over to do computations, but in MathCounts I worked on problems that required me to use math creatively to solve problems that I hadn’t been taught how to solve,” she says. To this day Melanie’s specialty is solving seemingly impossible problems creatively. Working as a research mathematician, she’s assigned problems that no one else has been able to solve, and she approaches them with a willingness to fail and a whole lot of patience. “Ideally you learn from all the approaches you try, whether they work or not,” she says.

MathCounts also introduced Melanie to a community of fellow students who were equally excited about math. Working with other enthusiastic burgeoning mathematicians taught her that her favorite part of math is working on it with other people, a discovery that is easily reflected in her career as an assistant professor at Stanford University.

Continue reading Melanie Matchett Wood