Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Student Highlight: Katy Rodriguez Wimberly

Katy Rodriguez Wimberly . Master's student at CSU Long Beach
Recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
 Next Fall: Ph.D Candidate at UC Irvine 

Katy Rodriguez Wimberly is a Master's student Currently at the  California State University, Long Beach and will be taking a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to University of California, Irvine in Fall 2016 to study galaxy evolution. She earned her BS Physics from Cal State Long Beach Where She Became an inaugural UC CSU-  Cal-Bridge Scholar.

Katy is the first in her family to Pursue a graduate degree and is a Southern California Native. Additionally, she loves astronomy outreach and conducts With underrepresented minorities, focusing on K-12 Primarily Special Needs students (including children on the Autism Spectrum and Those With Down's Syndrome).

This interview is part of a series of posts on the Astronomy In Color blog dedicated to Recognizing outstanding achievements by astronomers of color. Feel free to contact  Jorge Moreno  (jorgemoreno AT cpp.edu) if you know any other person of color , in astronomy Who has recently won an award or made ​​any other accomplishment.

Jorge:  What was your first reaction When You Learned That You won the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship?

Katy:  I dropped my phone straight up because i was so excited and screaming! It was almost surreal and still is. I first Learned I was Awarded the NSF GRF from my mentor, Dr. Mike Cooper , whos. It did not really quite in September in Until I read the email from the NSF. I cried. This was my second time and i went into Applying it only wanting to get better reviews than last year - I never even Considered whos being Awarded the fellowship! There was definitely happening lots of celebration dessert afterward.

Jorge:  Please tell me more about yourself. What's your story?

Katy:   Well, I am a non-traditional, Latin ethnicities mixed-graduate student and the first in my very large family to Pursue a graduate degree. Also, I have a pretty unique family situation - each of my five sisters are full at Least 18 years older than me. It's a little off-kilter but perfect. Our unique family dynamic has provided me with a well-rounded outlook, but on the other hand, the generational gap between my parents and me hindered my academic growth. My parents' view on women in STEM was very indicative of Their generation. As a result, my interest in STEM Wents Often undeveloped and discouraged. So, in an effort to be destructively obedient, i went in the exact opposite direction by devoting myself to the arts. 

After telling my parents I was going to study at a community college theater, They urged us strongly me to join the US Army Reserves to Provide myself a backup plan, financial stability and tuition assistance. I did so Immediately after high school. I served for 12 years all while learning and growing tremendously but, also, unknowingly got caught up in some fairly destructive habits. I am so grateful That I Realized how unhappy I was and then a Summoned the strength and courage to change almost everything about my life to really and truly start following my dreams. After a decade of smoking, I quit cold turkey, Began working out rigorously, and became a vegetarian. Sobriety was hardest to Achieve but I have now completely sober for over Been three years! Through These accomplishments, I Learned to believe in myself, to never give up, and to whos seek help. The confidence and motivation I developed in becoming a healthy, happy, goal-oriented person help me surmount Have any obstacles in my way.

Jorge:  What inspired you to Pursue a career in astronomy?

Katy: Honestly, I wanted to be Because like Captain Janewayfrom Star Trek Voyager. Having always loved space Past, When I started getting into sci-fi TV shows and Realized research was real job real people do, standing in the middle of my living room folding clothes, I Declared That I would one day be an astronomer! It Took That it was me learning a feasible career and a few good years of desperation from the desire of wanting to do something great with my life to be inspired on This path. In high school I wanted to Pursue math but was steered away from it Because my parents did not believe I would be reliable to get a job after college with a math degree. I am so grateful my ex-boyfriend That was a big nerd!

Jorge:  In your opinion, what qualities Makes your work so unique and compelling?

Katy: The research I've Begun and Will Continue with Dr. Mike Cooper at UC Irvine  Approaches the study of satellite quenching - ie, how star formation in galaxies satellite is stifled - by constraining the timescale That quenching OCCURS. My research employs Consuelo , a large dark-matter-only cosmological simulation, coupled With semi-empirical technics. Our goal is to make predictions for large surveys - Especially Those targeting Local redshifts beyond the universe, : such as  GOGREEN , Which Reaches as high redshifts z = 1.5!

I really enjoy the Ability / opportunity to combine theory and observation techniques in esta research and use simulations. It's an exciting hybrid of big data and large surveys. From my few short years in astronomy, I've noticed That there definitely Seems to be a trend towards data science techniques, interfacing theory and observation and large sky surveys. I'm ridiculously excited to be part of esta growing trend!

Jorge: As a woman of color, what challenges and obstacles have you faced in your career? How have you Overcome These challenges?

Katy:  Honestly, I think the majority of my challenges and obstacles are mostly self-inflicted and stemmed from low self-esteem, fear and ignorance. , Although, the lack of Latina astronomers to model myself after being the first professionally and in my family to Pursue a PhD did not help. Connecting with other astronomers fighting for equity and inclusion has - been a huge help to learn about prep These issues, gain inspiration to fight them and be confident in my uniqueness. Prior to That, I just kind of resolved myself to being different, but to love my situation, always look for the silver lining and always, always preserver.

Currently a challenge I'm facing, Which is definitely unique to underrepresented minorities, is almost Constantly questioning Whether someone's negative actions are just a result of poor Their personality or of racism and / or sexism. It's a fine line and I do not want to start believing everyone is out to get me. Again, my support network Keeps saving the day. My husband is Also a mixed-ethnicities, underrepresented minority in His field (animation). He has-been instrumental in my figuring out how to define and act Appropriately That line.

Jorge:  People of color, women of Especially color, are severely under-represented in our field. Can you point to 1 or 2 factors (specific programs, mentoring etc.) That Helped you succeed? Can you share 1 or 2 Present Ideas for making astronomy a more equitable and inclusive community? For dismantling racism and sexism in general?

Katy: This is the Easiest question to answer: Cal-Bridge and the Physics Department at Cal State Long Beach are two of the largest external factors in my success. In a way, I'm privileged to Have grown up in diverse community in Such a SoCal, earn my bachelor's here and now continue on to graduate studies. I've almost Been sheltered from a lot of the struggle. The department at Long Beach is pretty diverse and inclusive and the professors are so supportive and truly Care About Their students. The network of mentors and peers I've built through Cal-Bridge is everything.

I feel like everyone who's It Takes Passionate about equity and inclusion to be loud and fearless about it. May we not be the majority yet but if we keep building networks, pushing for and teaching others how to mentor underrepresented minorities, we'll definitely get there. When it comes to rights issues, I'm always inspired by creative activism - Beyoncé's Formation is just amazing and I love everything the band Ozomatli does for farm-worker's rights and immigration.

Jorge: What advice would you give to other young women of color , interested in following your path?

Katy: Fight against the fear - like, every type of fear: being different, of failing, of embarrassment, of the future. If you're anything like me, you're fantastic at dreaming up the absolute worst case scenarios. Do not let it hinder you. Ability to Use That prepared for the worst but always stay hopeful and try hard anyway. Since your worst scenario probably will not happen, everything will be prepared for Easier than you!

Also, build a support network! It is scary to be any kind of underrepresented minority, Especially Because We Have so few true / great role model options. Use social media to your advantage to find your role models and supporting peers. We're out there! It really is way more empowering than you imagined to connect to other underrepresented minority astronomers. Everyone That I have connected through With Cal-Bridge and great mentors like Dr. Jorge Moreno has - been so welcoming and supportive. (Thanks for being awesome Dr. Lia Corrales and Nicole Cabrera !)   It's a confidence boost I did not even realize I needed!

Jorge  end Any words?

Katy: Yes. I can not begin to thank all my mentors enough. It Took me a while to feel confident enough to really engage With any professor I Admired and, as I wrote Earlier, Cal-Bridge and Cal State Long Beach Physics Department really broke me out of my shell. So, I am incredibly grateful for Drs. Mike Cooper , Prashanth Jaikumar , Jorge Moreno , Alexander Rudolph , Matt Povich , Tammy Smeckerdhane , James Bullock Jiyeong Gu , Galen Pickett , Chuhee Kwon and Andreas Bill . Their advice and support, many others Among, has - been literally life changing.

* Jorge Moreno is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Cal Poly Pomona . I is Also a member of the AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy ( CSMA ).

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