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BS in Physics, The College of New Jersey
MS in Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Penn State University
What she does
I’m a science education analyst in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education (NSF DUE). In this role I have three primary responsibilities: outreach, communications, and data/portfolio analysis of a subset of our division’s programs. This is a two-year position described to me as a “pick and choose your own adventure” experience. Although I do have a handful of regular job responsibilities, I also am able to explore projects I’m passionate about. Two of my favorite parts of the job are managing our division’s newsletter, DU(E-NEWS), and conducting focused analyses of our division’s award portfolio.
How she got there
In high school I had an awesome physics teacher who got me interested in the subject. I started out at the College of New Jersey as a physics and secondary education major but realized early on that I didn’t see myself teaching in a traditional high school classroom. At the same time, I was introduced to cloud microphysics research through one of my professors, and that inspired me to pursue more of a research-oriented path. I ended up going to graduate school at Penn State University for atmospheric sciences, but while there I realized that I enjoyed being a teaching assistant more than doing research. My back-and-forth interest in science education and teaching was conflicting, so my current job at NSF is a perfect fit: I get to use my analytical and communication skills to make a difference in science education without being a traditional K-12 teacher! I’m also excited to share that this semester I’ll be returning to the College of New Jersey as an adjunct physics instructor!
Best part of her job
The best part of my work is learning about the interesting and impactful projects that NSF is funding. Through data analysis and communications efforts, I get to take a deep dive into our division’s awards and share the highlights internally and externally.
The most challenging part of my work has been getting immersed in the program evaluation space. Because I don’t have formal training in education program evaluation, I felt a bit lost at first. However, NSF is very supportive of their employees’ professional development, so they enrolled me in a certificate program through Georgetown School of Continuing Studies so
I could learn more about how program evaluation is done. I walked away from the course having a much better understanding of evaluation processes and terms, and I feel a lot more comfortable in that part of my job now (although I’m still learning every day!).
Advice to physics students
Acknowledge that the skill set you acquire from working toward a physics degree is widely applicable to a lot of different careers, and use that skill set to find something you’re passionate about. Physicists can be data scientists, financial analysts, science outreach coordinators, lab workers, etc. There is no one-size-fits-all path for a physics major. Think about the skills you have and ALL the different ways you can use them.
About The National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a federal agency in the United States that funds much of the country's scientific research. Through the Division of Undergraduate Education, NSF aims to strengthen STEM education at colleges and universities by funding curriculum development, workforce preparation programs, and efforts to increase diversity in STEM, among other projects.
Interested in Teaching Physics?
The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) is a professional physics society dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in physics education. Undergraduate SPS members are eligible for free membership in AAPT. For details visit spsnational.org/about/partnerships.