Name: Amy Freitag
Location: Beaufort, NC
Occupation: PhD student in marine science and conservation
Amy Freitag grew up the daughter of a nuclear physicist in Washington DC. Being around her scientist dad inspired her, and led her to have an adoration of science fairs. Throughout her childhood she changed her mind about her dream career often, but whether it was to be an endocrinologist or a restoration ecologist, it always stayed grounded in science.
Today Amy is a PhD student in marine science and conservation at Duke University. At this point in her career she considers marine biology a “midpoint stop.” She works at a marine lab and interacts with people who have riveting jobs that enlighten and motivate her. “I work with colleagues in environmental justice that have field sites in the coal towns of Appalachia, inner city Baltimore, and the strawberry fields of the San Joaquin Valley. I consider myself a political ecologist, which largely questions community access to – and power over – natural resources they depend on,” she says. “The frame of analysis is ubiquitous across cultures, ecosystems, and time. That’s what has really won my love.” She also finds the idea of incorporating academia into her future appealing, as she believes it can help her to simultaneously spread knowledge about the environment while helping communities to preserve their resources.
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Name: Catherine Qualtrough
Location: Charlotte, NC
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.
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Name: Danielle Stolzenberg, PhD
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.”
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