Meet: Margarita Marinova
NASA Ames Research Center
Career Fact Sheet Print Version Coming Soon
Who I am and what I do
I am currently a graduate student at the California
Institute of Technology. I have just started my thesis work, and it
will mainly focus on large impacts in the Solar System, and specifically
their importance in the evolution and current geology and geomorphology
of Mars. In addition to that, I am involved with a number of projects
at NASA Ames Research Center, such as the Lassen project.
My work consists
of going out into the field to collect data - finding ways to quantify
what nature is doing, and then when I get back to the office I analyze
the data and write computer models to simulate what nature is doing.
How I first became interested in this profession
My interest in space has grown from when I was very young. My
first memory is that I was very upset when I broke my arm because in
those days that meant I couldn't become an astronaut! (In those days
the physical requirements were pretty stringent.) My interest in space
and Mars really bloomed when I entered high school and had a lot more
freedom and knowledge to explore different topics. Since then it has
been an exhilerating ride learning increasingly more about these topics.
What helped prepare me for this job
I would say the most important things for being a planetary scientist
are curiousity, perseverence, and math. To be a good scientist you
need to be able to ask good questions, and a general curiousity is
definitely key in that! Of course perseverence is key, since in any
job - and studying - there are times when going to the beach sounds
more fun than completing that paper... And for what I do - especially
modeling natural environments - I have found math to really be key.
With a good foundation in math, it is relatively easy to learn about
the other aspects of geology and biology or any of the other sciences.
My role models
Being involved in internships has been the most important influence
in getting to where I am today. My teachers in high school were always
very supportive of my interest in space. Doing research with amazing
professors showed me just how much impact you can have on the world with
science - from inspiring students, to doing basic research that will
in the future be key to developing new technologies.
My education and training
While in high school, I took all the math and science classes that were
offered. I also worked at the local university as a research assistant,
absorbing as much as possible for the amazing people I had the pleasure
of working for. I then went on to study Aerospace Engineering at MIT
for my undergrad. This I think was a great choice because it gave me
a fairly strong background in math, and also it's always useful to understand
how gadgets work.
After graduating from MIT, I worked in Germany in
rocket propulsion research and development at EADS for a year, followed
by a year at NASA Ames being involved in various projects. I think
that working between undergrad and grad school was a great decision
and it gave me a new perspective on science and technology - out in
the "real world".
The experiences made it clear to me what I wanted to do as a career.
While I don't know where life will take me after finishing my PhD at
CalTech, I hope to eventually work in a profession that combines my
knowledge of both aerospace engineering and planetary sciences in building
space instruments and analyzing the data that comes back.
What I like best about my job
I get very excited about learning new things about the universe, and
with my job that's what I do every day! Whether it is finding something
new when out in the field, or having computer model work and produce
interesting results, it's an amazing feeling for me!
Also, as part of studying extreme environments, I get to travel to a
lot of these places in order to collect data. I really love that aspect
of my job as I get to visit and discover, in my opinion, some of the
most beautiful places on this planet and really appreciate how amazing
My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
If you would like to be involved in science, there is
really so much out there to study and learn! Going to talks and reading
science books is a great way to figure out what you like and the kind
of job you'd like to have. In my job, I would say study whichever subject
area you find most interesting - not necessarily, for example, geology
or astrophysics - and on top of that take as much math as you can, because
it will help in so many ways later on! Follow your passions and you'll
get to where you want to go!