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Imagining careers in science

Peddie’s faculty has always gone the extra mile to provide abundant resources for students who want to explore their myriad interests in depth. The broad array of speakers who visit campus each year is a particularly dynamic element of this effort. Experts in their field, these guest speakers — often Peddie alumni — can range from writers and performers to surgeons and political activists. This term, when Peddie classes went online without missing a beat, faculty made speakers a part of this new virtual format.

The Science Department organized a series of seven inspirational presentations given by elite scientists, three of whom are proud to call Peddie their alma mater.

Delivered over a span of three weeks, the roster included Sarah Ragen, climate specialist and Ph.D. student at University of Washington-Seattle; Jess Hlay, anthropologist and Ph.D. student at Boston University; Dr. Elise Piassa, who is doing her postdoctoral work at Princeton Neuroscience Institute; and Dr. Santiago de la Pena, a researcher of ice sheet dynamics at Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.

“Lessons learned both inside and outside the classroom at Peddie empowered me to chart my own path.” Dr. Roxanne Carini '07

Peddie alumni Oliver Johnston ’11, Dr. Alyssa Barlis ’09 and Dr. Roxanne Carini ’07 were enthusiastic and passionate speakers, and perhaps especially inspirational because of their immediate connection with the students. Their paths from Peddie to the present carried a mind-bending amount of effort that came with intense satisfaction. Their joy was palpable, and they encouraged their audience to pursue what they love without reservation. Johnston, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical at the University of Connecticut, was the inaugural speaker of the series and spoke about his research in disruptive behavior disorders; Barlis, an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard, spoke about her work as an optical engineer; and Carini, who works for the Mammal Commission, spoke to students about how science is used to inform conservation and policy decisions for marine mammals.

The students in the audience often asked what a day in the speakers’ lives look like, trying to envision themselves in a similar role. Barlis encouraged the budding scientists not only to take as many physics classes as possible, but to remember the humanities were important as well. “Outside of math and science, please don’t forget that words are important. I know Peddie is good about this. If scientists can’t communicate their work, then it’s less meaningful to the rest of the world,” Barlis said. She also stressed the importance of the arts. “I’m a dancer and a singer and there are a lot of musicians who are in STEM fields. There’s a huge interplay between the arts and sciences and certainly no reason to give up any of the artistic stuff that you’re into.”

Carini shared her journey from Peddie to Yale and onward to graduate school at the University of Washington. In an effort to combine her passions, Dr. Carini transitioned from coastal physical oceanography research to marine policy, and reflected that “lessons learned both inside and outside the classroom at Peddie empowered me to chart my own path.”