Meet Sara Mazrouei: a PhD in Planetary Geology.
As a Planetary Scientist, she is passionate about all things pertaining to space exploration, the Moon, impact craters, and asteroids (her Master's Thesis in Earth and Space Science was: Spatial analysis and mapping of boulders and craters on asteroid Itokawa to understand the formation of the body and its current state).
Sara enjoys speaking about her expertise (and love) for Space Science - which she does through various speaking engagements and outreach programs – and she also advocates for Women in STEM, as well as for minorities and equity for all, within the science community.
Below is my interview with Sara.
Can you describe your field of study/what you do?
I’m a planetary scientist and a science communicator. As a planetary scientist, I’m interested in studying the Moon, asteroids, and other planetary objects to understand how they have formed and evolved over time. As a science communicator, I work to bridge the gap between the science community and the broader community.
From your TED Talk (see above), you mention you were a big reader as a kid, but what/who inspired you to study Planetary Geology and become a Planetary Scientist?
I wanted to become an astronaut and go dancing on the Moon since a young age. My main inspiration came from wanting to explore the unknown and going places where no-one else had been before. I followed Chris Hadfield’s advice:
“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you'd be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don't let life randomly kick you into the adult you don't want to become.”
In high school, I learned there is no school/program for becoming an astronaut, so I picked space science to study. It gave me a chance to learn about a combination of space science, atmospheric science, engineering, and geology. I gravitated towards planetary science and geology for my higher education, as it allowed me to be involved with current space missions and make new discoveries.
I usually ask from the women I interview if they’ve experienced sexism or discrimination, as many STEM fields are still dominated/studied by men, but not only you have experienced it (more on that in TED Talk shared above), you now advocate for women – and people of color – in STEM.
Can you tell us what made you persist, and break through this barrier on to getting your PhD?
A great motivation for me is to do things others tell me I can’t do/ achieve. My passion and desire to keep exploring the unknown kept me motivated, as well as wanting to prove to others that I belong right where I am. In my lowest lows, I kept reminding myself that my parents immigrated and moved across the ocean so I could pursue whatever I dreamt of and I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way.
Additionally, the lack of representation in my field really bothered me. I hardly saw people who looked like me or shared a similar journey. That motivated me to BE that person for the next generation kept me going.
And as you advocate for women of color in STEM, what is your advice to people (both, those who experience discrimination and those who pose limitations on minorities, race or gender) on this issue?
Science and exploration, or anything else in general, does not depend on your race, age, sex, etc. However, racism, sexism, and ableism, and barriers still exists. You are not alone. Find your support network and help lift one another up. Take it one day at a time.
To those in the position of power, use your platform to shed light on the discrimination that still exist; make space for folks from marginalized groups.
You call yourself “Lunatic” on Twitter, of course, in a playful use of the word, as you love all things pertaining to space, and celestial objects, so what is the coolest thing about your field/what you do?
I get to discover new things about our home planet Earth by studying other celestial objects! Sometimes, I work on future mission concepts – this requires me to use available data from the Moon (or other exploration targets) to determine the best landing sites, sample locations, and routes for rovers and astronauts!
But perhaps the best part of my job is talking about what I love and sharing it with others. Getting the next generation excited about planetary science and exploration is the highlight of my day.
A study showed that girls lose interest in STEM by age 15, for various reasons, but mostly due to lack of representation (role models). As a professional in STEM, what advice do you have for girls with an interest in STEM or in pursuing higher education in general?
Set your own goals and follow your own unique path. Ask questions and find a mentor – ask your teachers/parents/guardians to help you find a mentor, someone who is working in a field you would like to work at in the future. They may not know one, but they can help you search for one! I should note that finding mentors can be hard and hasn’t always been easy for me, or at least finding one that I could connect with as my entire self and not just my academic side. Social media could be a great tool for connecting with different mentors if used appropriately.
Sara is an expert with Space Matters, which goal is to: "raise awareness of the importance of space to Canadians and how it touches on nearly every aspect of their daily lives."
You can also find her on Social Media & her Website:
Website: Sara Mazrouei