I am one of the most recent additions to the External Affairs Office here at NASA Ames Research Center. In February of this year I was hired as the production assistant for multimedia CD-ROMs. So, what the heck does a production assistant do? Well, I am the person in charge of the formatting and layout of all the text for the supplemental educational material. As my career progresses, I will be involved in assisting in the production of video, picture and graphical layout and copyright procurement.
I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio but spent the majority of my life in the Rocky Mountains. I lived in Denver, Colorado for 12 years and then the past 12 years of my life in Montana. I think that growing up in the Rockies gave me a lot of the values that I believe in. The people are honest, hard working, and sincere. Besides, who wouldn't want to live in such a tremendously peaceful, beautiful and serene environment? It was the beautiful surroundings that led to my interest in science.Since a very young age, I can remember always being fascinated with the world around me. I could sit in the car for hours and look out the window. Or on an airplane trip- even better-I would survey the land below with wonder and sheer excitement. When I reached high school, my earth science teacher, Mr. Smith, was always encouraging... he often called on me and I was even dubbed as "Amber knows everything". Then, there was my chemistry teacher, Mr. Schenkle, who taught me the invaluable lesson that there truly is no such thing as a stupid question... because of this philosophy, I know why Ivory soap floats... even when other kids laughed at me for asking. His dedication before and after school, during lunch breaks, his support and participation in attending our sport events, plays, and other school activities encouraged me to accomplish whatever I aspired to. I remember being asked at the last minute to compete in a new event for Science Olympiad. My dad coached me for an entire week discussing water quality and a variety of environmental issues. As a result, my partner and I took 3rd place in the state in Water Quality. Or how could I forget my inquisitive Uncle Lloyd! The days I got to spend around Vancouver Island scavenging through tide pools, walking along the beach and learning the art of sailing-in fact, he still always has some new specimen for me to inspect whenever I see him.
In college two of my greatest influences were my Physics teacher and my Geology advisor. Dr. Francis didn't want us to memorize Physics equations he wanted us to learn how to think--and not just find the answers, but explain them! Dr. Locke never gave up on me. He knew I wasn't his brightest student and that I probably wouldn't go on to do a great geological doctoral thesis, but he trained me to be a great scientist by making me question everything! I know this sounds funny, but he actually taught me how to think... to think for myself, and not see the world through the eyes of how everyone else told me it was SUPPOSED to be, but what I thought was important.
Media influenced me too. From the NASA videos I saw on public television, the video tapes of "Uncle Carl" (Carl Sagan) in my freshman earth science class to racing home from Structural Geology class in college to catch the latest episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy. (That guy truly has THE coolest job of all time!)
So, naturally, how could I want to be anything else but an earth scientist? -Earth scientists combine all the best of the sciences... Chemistry, biology, physics and math... all in one! At first I wanted to be a meteorologist and study weather patterns. This desire grew from an assignment in the fourth grade to do a media broadcast and I happened to be the weather person. When I did my weather report I really got into it, using props and corny humour. I truly found a place to shine. In high school I learned basic cloud patterns and with all of the frequent thunderstorms in the Rocky Mountains I had a real interest in lightning. How shocking! So, when I started college I was placed in the Geography department. Geography was interesting but it focused more on people and the interaction with the places where they lived... I wanted more "hard core", pure science. So, I started the geology program and took all the fun classes like, biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, and geology. Some might wonder how you could keep your sanity with all that science stuff... well, I found joy and relaxation by continuing my music study. I played clarinet in Symphonic Band, and saxophone in Marching Band. My last couple of years I was the Drum Major for the "Spirit of the West" marching band at Montana State University. Being a member of marching band taught me about discipline, hard work, and pride in the satisfaction of pushing yourself to achieve greatness. Playing clarinet gave me an appreciation of beauty and the passion of life... a chance to live through the eyes of another and experience another time, place or event. Music wasn't my only outlet--I loved dancing! Sometimes at raves, expressing my individuality while the Techno music throbbed on... or on stage as a member of the MSU Dance Company trying my hardest to combine modern, jazz, ballet and funkÉ. I even had a chance to show my love of the theatre by taking a lighting design class. I think it was vitally important to be involved in these activities in college. I made lots of friends and it opened my mind to new ideas and opportunities, giving me a broad and open appreciation of life!
I graduated in May of 1996 with my degree in geology. I think I'm not alone in saying that I had an idea about what I wanted to do with my life but was unsure of how I was going to get there. When leaving the sheltered space college life provides the whole world opens up-full of excitement, opportunity and even a little fear. I had known since I was 12 years old that I wanted to work for NASA, but didn't know how I was going to get there. NASA has all the brightest scientists and innovative research--of course I wanted to work there. I moved to Denver, lived with my mom, and worked for a temporary agency. While I was there I wrote all the NASA research centers, checked out the Internet, and even went to the Lunar and Planetary Institute conference in Houston. No luck... but I didn't give up my dream. When one of my best friends got a job out here in the Silicon Valley I jumped at the opportunity to move out here... Sunnyvale, CA... just two miles for NASA Ames Research Center! I was so excited! I continued to work for a temporary agency and finally one day, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a job at NASA. Finally, after 14 years, my dream had come true. I was working for NASA!! Now, some might ask, what a girl with a geology degree is doing as a production assistant. I love my current job. It combines all of the practical and invaluable knowledge I learned while doing temp. work and allows me to use my creativity... the perfect balance between my technical/scientific side and my artistic/creative side. My knowledge of the Internet, programming, computer hardware and software, artistic composition and layout all combine to give me great satisfaction in what I do. Besides the great feeling that I am contributing to the production of educational software and materials, which will help other kids learn and appreciate the world around them, makes me beam with pride.
In addition to my job here at NASA I continue to find enjoyment in the arts. I have taken up ballroom dancing... ya know, waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, swing, tango... and no, it's not just for your parents or grandparents either! Ballroom dancing is really popular in the Bay Area and I love the social interaction, the stress reduction and the physical exercise. If you don't see me on the ballroom floor, perhaps you'll see me in a local Salsa club. I love Latin music! The surrounding hills and mountains are wonderful for hiking and I love to play in the sun on the beach! I continue with my fascination of learning about other people and new cultures by brushing up on my Spanish and I even think I'll try to learn Mandarin Chinese.
My advice to you... never give up! If life throws you a difficult loop, I like to think to myself and say "Okay, I guess I'm just gonna have to be more creative." The world is a big and amazing place. I challenge you to find YOUR passion... find out who YOU are and what YOU believe... if you follow your heart's desire... you will receive what your heart desires.