Meet Lu Pellerin, an exploration geophysicist and sole proprietor of Green Geophysics.
What is your earliest memory of wanting to be a scientist?
In the 2nd grade we were asked to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. The boy next to me wanted to be a scientist and I thought that sounded good, but was told girls become teachers, nurses and mothers (or nuns – I went to Catholic school). I then decided I would become an actress, which was one of the few careers obvious to a girl in 1960. I didn’t have the passion to endure such a career so started sampling different disciplines in college. At 20 years old I took my first physics course and my path was set
What’s the most exciting part of your research?
Exploring new places and new ideas.
When you encounter frustrating situations or dead-ends, what keeps you going?
Realism – there are always frustrating situations or bends in the road (not dead ends), whether broken instruments, noisy data, software bugs, logistic problems, unexpected/confusing results. Scientists are problem solvers.
What’s the strangest place/situation you’ve been?
Strangest? How about the most exotic is the Tian Shan;, the most extraordinary is the South Pole; the most awe-inspiring is the Alaska Range; the best scientific stimulation mixed with warm collegiality is Aarhus, Denmark; and the most familiar (outside of Berkeley, CA) is the Basin and Range of the Western USA.
From your experience of working in academia, national laboratories, and in industry, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Students are the best part of academia. Scientific freedom at national labs is a plus, but funding is a continual struggle. Industry is fast and exciting, but budgets and deadlines are real.
What advice can you give geoscientists who want to set up their own business?
Being your own boss is great, but you also may need to be your own IT, accounting, sales and marketing departments while you are growing. At some point you made need to decide if you want to stay small and do more science or grow and become a business person. Feast or famine cycles are to be expected, which often means it is hard to turn down work even when you are busy because you don’t know what is around the corner. Work for a large company or lab first, establish yourself as a scientist, develop contacts, and grow your network.
What’s the one thing you really want to do but haven’t had the opportunity to yet?
Quantify the quality of a multi-dimensional inverse solution. And work in Greenland.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in the Earth and space sciences?
1) Follow your passion;
2) Pick a graduate school based on your advisor – he or she will be a pivotal person in your career and if all goes well a lifelong friend;
3) Choose a profession in which you enjoy (most) of the day-to-day tasks and values of your colleagues, not just the big picture.