Learning to be a scientist by figuring it out along the way


April 29, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

This May, Heather Meyer will be graduating from Arizona State University with her PhD in geological sciences from the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Meyer had the opportunity as a kid to see a space shuttle launch from Kennedy Space Center, sparking her interest in space. Heather Meyer During her time at ASU, Heather Meyer joined the NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Team, led by Mark Robinson of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Download Full Image

Then, as an undergraduate at the College of Charleston, she discovered planetary geology, which offered the perfect combination of her interests in both geology and space exploration, and so her path was set.

For graduate school, Meyer chose ASU and joined the NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Team, led by Mark Robinson of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“ASU provides unparalleled opportunities to get involved in planetary missions to many solar system bodies,” says Meyer.

Meyer is now a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. Her most recent published research includes a new moon map featured in Science News, using LROC data, showing where debris from giant impacts fell on the moon’s surface.

She answered questions about her time at ASU:

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: I used to wonder how some people became such successful scientists and where they learned everything, but the reality is that no one is born a successful scientist. We are all just figuring it out as we go along by applying scientific reasoning. That helped change my way of thinking about becoming a scientist (you don't need to know it all beforehand) and gave me hope that I can learn to be a good scientist too.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Work with your adviser to set realistic goals and reasonable achievements. Grad school in particular gives you very few major benchmarks, so you need to formulate some achievements on your own to remind yourself how much you are actually accomplishing along the way. And don't compare your progress with anyone else! That won't help anyone.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I spent a lot of time at the MU Starbucks. Late nights, early mornings and afternoon pick-me-ups all required coffee. Conveniently, all of my friends relied on coffee too, so we often went together to work or chat.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I will spend the next two years in Houston working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Lunar and Planetary Institute doing primarily lunar research. Beyond that, who knows? There are some wonderful opportunities coming up in planetary science, and I hope to remain involved with active planetary missions and research.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Only $40 million for a global problem? I'd probably put it toward education and sustainable living for impoverished communities to aid in the fight to eliminate poverty.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-965-9345

Passion for helping others leads double major to career in counseling


April 29, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Growing up in Phoenix, Daniela Rios always wanted to be a pediatrician and was accepted into Bioscience High School. During her senior year, she took her first psychology class and became very interested in it. Thus, she decided to major in psychology when she came to Arizona State University. Along the way, she took a particular interest in development while taking some classes in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and decided to add on a major in family and human development. Picture of Daniela Rios in ASU cap and gound. During all four years at ASU, Daniela Rios has been a part of the ProMod Peer Mentor Program, serving as a mentor to high school students in Phoenix Union district, assisting them with their FAFSA and college applications and working with their families to prepare them for college life.

In May, she is graduating with a double major in family and human development and psychology.

Rios is the type of student who understands the importance of getting involved to get the most out of your time in college. She has always looked for opportunities to gain experiences that will facilitate her growth as well as serve others, and there is no end to the list of people she has helped in her community.

During all four years at ASU, Rios has been a part of the ProMod Peer Mentor Program through the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She has served as a mentor to high school students in Phoenix Union district, assisting them with their FAFSA and college applications and working with their families to prepare them for college life. Through this work and other experiences such as working as a respite and rehabilitation provider through the Hope Group, Rios decided to pursue a career in counseling to fulfill her passion for helping others. 

During her last two years here at ASU, Rios has participated in three internships, which include working with disadvantaged preschool children as well as domestic violence survivors in need of career training, medical and educational assistance. Furthermore, she has taken on leadership roles in her multicultural sorority, through which she has done a host of other service work. It is through service that Rios has found her purpose, passion and future.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Growing up I remember I was always very fascinated with the human brain and learning why people behave the way they do. When I was in elementary school I remember sitting down with the school counselor and drawing out my feelings on a piece of paper. When I reflect on this moment I think about the positive impact she had on me, and I want to be able to provide that support and guidance for children and young adults. I would say my interest in psychology sparked when I took a psychology course as an elective in high school and learned all about the various areas, theories and real-world applications of psychology.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or that changed your perspective?

A: Something that I learned at ASU both in my classes and outside experiences (internship and on-campus job) was that although there are many nonprofit organizations and resources to assist the community, most individuals are unaware of these programs or simply do not take advantage of them.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I decided to attend ASU because it allowed me to stay close to home and to my family. ASU also offered a variety of opportunities for me to be involved including internships, clubs/organizations and on-campus jobs.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My best piece of advice is to be involved, network and enjoy your experience as an undergrad. ASU offers unlimited opportunities and resources for students; take advantage of these opportunities. Whether it’s joining a club or attending an internship fair, these experiences have the potential to benefit you. The majority of the friends I have made at ASU have been a result of being involved in a research lab, becoming a member of an organization, working on-campus or attending a study session. Being involved can also help you identify what you are passionate about, help you meet incredible people who share similar interests as you, and expose you to opportunities that you may have never known about.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus to hang out with friends and study was the Computing Commons on the Tempe campus.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am still considering my options after graduation. At the moment, I plan on taking at least a semester off to work either for a nonprofit organization or a job where I can gain more experience in my field of interest. During this time, I plan on enhancing my resume, gaining more experience and applying for graduate programs in counseling/therapy.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I am an advocate about access to high-quality education and mental health services specifically for children and young adults. If I were given $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, I would use it towards improving the quality of education children receive and funding programs that focus around raising mental health awareness. For example, implementing programs that help children develop positive coping skills to deal with their emotions and minimize behavior problems in the long run. I also think it is important to provide high-quality training to social workers, counselors and therapists in the field and make their services accessible to anyone in the community.

John Keeney

Media Relations Coordinator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

480-965-3094