Career Profiles: Laci Brock

What is your name?

Laci Brock

Where do you work and what is your role/job title?

I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona. I study clouds on substellar objects called brown dwarfs.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Most of the time! As a full-time Ph.D. student, you work many hours. It can be difficult to balance work and life. I try to make time on the weekends for my hobbies of painting, birding, and playing video games.

 

Questions about your current Job

How did you go about getting your current job?

I finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics and found myself interested in science education. I enrolled in a science education Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, but I soon came to miss scientific research. I decided I wanted to pursue both–science education and science.

I applied to transfer to my current Ph.D. program in planetary sciences and was accepted. I spoke to a few faculty who studied exoplanet and brown dwarf atmospheres (my main scientific research interests) and found one who agreed to be my Ph.D. advisor.

Describe a typical day.

Well, since the pandemic started it is difficult to remember what a “typical day” is like! And as a graduate student, your days are always in flux. Once you finish the coursework for your Ph.D., most days involve working on your research. I wake up, check my emails, attend meetings (virtually), and work on my research. My research is mostly theoretical and involves running atmosphere models, coding/analyzing data, and reading scientific literature.

What’s the coolest part of your job?

I love being able to travel. I have been fortunate to have an opportunity to observe on one of the largest telescopes in the world in Hawaii and attend scientific conferences in new places I have never visited.

Are there any elements of your job that you dislike?

 It can be difficult to manage research tasks when deadlines aren’t always set-in-stone. You have to be very self-guided to succeed, and as someone with ADHD, I often struggle to organize large projects. It helps to make to-do lists and goals for the week to stay on task.

 

Questions about education and training

What subjects did you take in school/college and how have these influenced your career path?

I started as an atmospheric science major during my undergraduate and wanted to study weather and climate. When I realized the field of planetary science existed and I could study planetary atmospheres, I immediately switched my major to interdisciplinary physics and sort of created my own degree. I took a variety of courses including astrophysics, geophysics, and atmospheric science giving me a well-rounded physical science background.

Did you participate in any extra-curricular projects and if yes, did this affect your career choice?

I lost touch with art throughout most of my undergraduate career and early in graduate school. A few years ago I got involved with The Art of Planetary Science, an annual art show held in my department put on entirely by graduate students. This got me back into painting and inspired me to start communicating science through art on social media.

 

Questions about yourself 

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

I was invited to be a speaker at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Conference to give a talk about my science education research. It was the first time I was invited to speak!

What is your dream job?

My dream job will be a non-traditional career where I can combine my scientific skills with artistic passions. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I know it’s out there!

Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice

What advice would you give to someone considering this job? Are there important personal characteristics, or good work experience they can undertake for example? 

Pursuing a Ph.D. is no easy endeavor. I would encourage anyone interested in pursuing graduate school to be a self-motivated learner, have excellent time management skills, and learn to balance school and life efficiently so they do not burn out.