Research Scientist, SETI Institute


Was there a particular person or event that influenced your career choice? My career path has been a long and winding one. I was interested in weather from the newspaper and that was when the weather channel had just come out and my dad watched it all the time. I was always good at math, so there was never any doubt about that, but my high school math teacher was particularly encouraging. When I applied for college I had professors talk me out of meteorology, so I chose physics and astronomy as my degree. Between my junior and senior year I did an REU (internship) at Haystack Observatory in Westford, MA, and I was able to meet the professor who became my master’s advisor. In graduate school we later parted amicably and I changed advisors. I moved upstairs to the atmospheric science group and my PhD advisor was the only one willing to indulge my interest in space. Later, over a friendly game of poker (no money involved) a colleague casually said, “I have funding, if you need it.” That funding ended up supporting me for the rest of grad school and part of being a postdoc. Lastly, I ended up at my institution because of the negative way my other postdoc advisor treated me, but it was a good choice in the end.

What is a typical day like at your job? One or more of the following: troubleshooting and running computer programs you or a colleague has written, writing papers about your results or writing proposals about future projects, writing presentations for conferences.

What do you wear to work? When I had an external office, jeans and a solid color t-shirt. In my home office, I wear pajamas.

What types of people do you interact with at your job? Administrative assistants! They are amazing at supporting you (keeping your budget, finding mistakes in your proposals). Also, scientists of all ages at your institution.

What are some of your recent personal goals? Studying Pluto has been fruitful for me, so I am continuing along that path. I have a computer model of Pluto’s atmosphere and I am always putting more physical processes in it.

What do you like to do outside of work? I spend a great deal of time at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley being a cat adoption liaison (interacting with potential cat adopters), being a “Kitty Bestie” (interacting with shy, special needs cats), doing animal recovery from surgery, washing and sterilizing surgical instruments in the veterinary clinic, and doing other miscellaneous jobs (answering the phone, working in the gift shop, doing laundry). I also am an avid skier.

Who are YOUR role models? Sally Ride

Read more about her career! Atmospheric ScientistPlanetary ScientistResearcher

Bio: As a young girl, Angela thought that she would be a TV meteorologist. Now, she is a planetary atmospheres research scientist at the SETI Institute. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her master’s and doctorate degrees in atmospheric science from MIT. In her career, computer programming skills, the ability to write scientifically, the ability to give presentations, a willingness to travel around the world, and the ability to think of and execute new ideas are all important qualities to have. Some of the challenges of her work involve obtaining funding for her salary, travel, and other expenses. The topics she works on fall under NASA’s domain, but since funding is limited, she spends a lot of time writing proposals. Her career includes great perks, though! As part of her work, Angela has traveled all over the world! She’s been to many cities in the US, and also to the UK, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and Japan. Fun fact: Angela is also an expert downhill skier! She has also hiked a 14,000-foot mountain, won three weather forecasting awards (competitive weather forecasting does exist!), and knows how to milk a goat!