April 10, 2017

Paths Through Science: Lonnie Leithold

Posted by AGU Career Center

Paths Through Science highlights the many diverse paths AGU’s scientists have charted across the disciplines within Earth and space science through interviews with professionals in government, academia, industry, and non-profit sectors.

Our April profile features Lonnie Leithold.  Lonnie Leithold, a sedimentologist, is a professor and co-director of graduate programs at North Carolina State University’s Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. In this month’s Paths Through Sciences, Lonnie shares some pointers she learned along her career path and talks about why she is joining the March for Science on 22 April.

Here are a few excerpts from her profile.  You can read the rest of the interview at her Paths Through Science profile page:

  • It’s really important as a graduate student to develop tools, have a strong foundation in some aspect of your science so that you have a niche, so you might want to develop an expertise in isotope geochemistry or sediment transport modeling or something that you can apply to a variety of problems especially early in your career.  That really gives you a way to say I’m an expert in this tool.  It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a problem that you’re really driven towards, but I think you really need to work on being good at applying tools.
  • [It] may be obvious but science is a group activity.  Building relationships in science is very important…I tell students now, even when they’re just starting out as masters students coming into our department, “Look around you, your cohort is really important.” I still have strong relationships with folks I was in grad school with.  That social aspect of a science career is important.
  • Even after all these years, I am still somewhat poetic about science. I think it’s a beautiful way of finding truth: it’s inquiry, it’s finding facts, being a careful observer of whatever data you have, and being rigorously honest about interpreting those data to the best of your ability as a human being—because human beings tend to see what they want to see. I am really worried that we’re in this climate where people don’t want to know about facts, they just want to push what they want the conclusion to be.

Did you or someone you know take a unique track to get where you are today? What do you wish you knew back when you started your career?  What advice would you give to those still in school trying to figure out if a career in Earth and space sciences is right for them?  We are always looking for new stories to share to help AGU members better navigate their path.  Contact us at careers@agu.org to let us share your story and stay tuned for more exciting interviews and video profiles from Paths Through Science.