Originally published March 2nd, 2014 at generalcirculation.blogspot.com
On a recent trip home, I was undertaking that favorite past-time of twenty-something year olds--cleaning out my childhood bedroom. In a repurposed VHS case labeled 'My Treasures', I discovered an unmarked cassette tape that turned out to hold, "The biography of Geeta Gayatri Persad from date of birth to age ten and three quarters."
I listened through it in a haze of nostalgia--young me clearly had a cold when she recorded it, and the recording is scratchy and fuzzy with time--but one section keeps returning to me at unexpected moments. Ten and three quarter year old me is describing a field trip to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas and begins waxing poetical:
"I want to be an astronomer when I grow up, an environmentalist, or somebody who--who studies, um, weather patterns--well, how they affect the earth--and outer space...Sigh...Phenomenal things, basically."
I am often asked (and, to be honest, often ask myself) why I chose to get my PhD in Climate Science. I'm in the third year of my doctorate in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Princeton University, studying how liquid and solid particles that come from burning stuff (also known as aerosols) affect our climate system when they get into the atmosphere. My interests have ranged far and wide, from Shakespearean theater to existentialist philosophy to classical dance, but ultimately I suppose I've decided to dedicate these years to a PhD because I want to study phenomenal things, basically. How does the Earth maintain itself? And what is humankind's fundamental relationship to that maintenance? These are questions that sound almost philosophical, but are also (I think) the core questions to which all questions in Earth and Environmental Science lead. Thinking about them gives me an almost transcendental feeling, and if that's what being a nerd means, then I will gladly accept the title.
This blog will be my attempt to convey my search for phenomenal things to all of my friends and family who wonder what a climate scientist in training does with her time. I'll post thoughts and questions on the fascinating seminars from all over campus that punctuate my day, I'll share the articles and news pieces that climate scientists are chatting about over the proverbial water cooler, and who knows what else.
Read, comment, question, and join me as I let down my hair and try to share what getting a PhD in Climate Science is really all about.