as compiled by Chrystelle Vilfranc
I’m a mixed-race indigenous Southeast Asian third culture kid who is a geoscientist, climate scientist, writer, and science educator.
– Dr. Heidi Stauffer
We’re so excited to feature Dr. Heidi Stauffer as this week’s #WCWinSTEM! We let Heidi take the lead and tell her own story this time around, so be sure to tell her what you think of all the awesome she lives with on a daily basis. The responses have been edited for content and brevity.
Where did/do you go to school?
B.S. Geology, University of Nevada, Reno
M.S. Geology, San Jose State University
PhD, Earth Sciences, UC Santa Cruz
What do you do right now?
I just finished my PhD, submitted 1/26/17, and approved 2/6/17, and am currently looking for a job. I am licensed in California as a Professional Geologist, and have work experience in environmental geology, natural hazard disclosure and science education. My PhD research focused on land use changes in Southeast Asia and how they affect present and future climate. The second part of my research was on determining where in the world and how many people may be subject to high, health-threatening levels of heat stress at the end of the 21st Century. The first part was conducted using a regional climate model to generate model output under specified climate and land use conditions, which I then analyzed. The second part of the research used freely available global climate model output for temperature and relative humidity to calculate the National Weather Service heat index. I also used projected global population density data to determine number and distribution of people affected by high heat stress.
Wow, this sounds like incredibly important and timely work. We can’t wait to read your dissertation. Also, big ups on your newly minted PhD!!
What made you choose your STEM discipline in the first place?
I come from a family of artists, scientists, and educators. My dad and my grandfather were both geologists and artists. My mother was a teacher and an artist. She is also indigenous Southeast Asian and the first generation of her family to leave her village. Both of them raised me with a love of the natural world and a keen curiosity about how things work. I also started reading at a young age and mostly mysteries. For me, geology is all about solving mysteries using the clues left behind by natural processes & events on the Earth.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you had when you started your STEM journey?
I wish someone had told me that career mentors do not have to be at your university or even in STEM. Because of the lack of diversity in my field and in my department, it took me many years to realize that I could seek mentors and support outside of my university & STEM. In particular, I joined the Association for Women Geoscientists, where I met many supportive women who have helped me throughout my career, and SACNAS, where I found a supportive and accepting community of people in STEM. More recently, I found a virtual network of women in STEM (including women of color) on Twitter.
Do you have a woman of color in STEM shero? Who and why?
Yes. Dr. Lisa White, Assistant Director, University of California Museum of Paleontology. When I decided to be a geologist, I was about 16. My dad worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and he made a point to introduce me to every woman geologist he knew. Dr. White was one of the first woman geologists I ever met and ever since then, I’ve admired her work at the USGS, then at San Francisco State, especially her SF-ROCKS outreach program to underserved communities, and now as Assistant Director of the UC Museum of Paleontology.
“I think it’s important that society realize that not only do women of color exist in STEM but that we are active productive professionals making a difference in society.”
What else are you passionate about?
I write novels (not published yet), crochet, bake, and used to sing in a choir. I also participate in SFF fandom by going to conventions, being on panels and dressing up in costume.
Why do you think it’s important to highlight women of color in STEM?
I think it’s important for two reasons. The first is that I’ve often felt invisible in my field as a woman of color. I think it’s important that society realize that not only do women of color exist in STEM but that we are active productive professionals making a difference in society. The second is that I’m hoping girls and women of color can realize their dreams are possible because they can see themselves in us. As an undergrad I never had a professor or a TA in my major who was a woman of color. As a grad student, this was mostly true as well. Note: in high school, I had a Black woman chemistry teacher, so having no women of color in my field in college was kind of a shock. It wasn’t until I was a TA and a lecturer, that I suddenly realized that I might be the first woman of color in STEM that my students had ever had as a TA or professor.
Are there organizations you want more people to know about?
Earth & Planetary Sciences Department @UCSC:
UC Santa Cruz:
Thank you for the work you do, Heidi! We’re honored to have you in our #VanguardSTEM squad and we can’t wait to see –and support!– all that you do in your career.
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