Danna is an undergraduate geology student at Universidad Industrial de Santander, from Bucaramanga, Colombia. She's been working as Visiting Scholar at Blue Marble Space Institute of Science and as Astrobiology Instructor at Art Of Inquiry. She works on geochemistry models to learn more about the atmosphere from early Mars.
You’re a currently geology student, interested in astrobiology. Could you tell us more about it?
As a geology student, I love learning about rocks and how geological processes affect everything around them, including life. This is why I think astrobiology is related to geology. When I started my undergrad studies, I was in love with planetary geology and then I discovered that it was useful for astrobiology: Understanding the geological processes and the historical evolution of geology from a planet can give us a powerful tool to understand what conditions could stimulate the emergence of life or not, and which adversities faced life in order to evolve as we know it.
How did you decide to become a scientist? Did you get inspired by anyone or anything in particular?
I guess it started when I was a little kid and I used to ask questions about everything, and that’s the most important for becoming a good scientist, to ask the right questions. Then, when I was in high school, I started watching documentaries about astronomy, geology and biology. My favourite was “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan. It inspired me and showed me for the first time what a scientist could do, discover and learn in their everyday work. But I wasn’t sure about it, as I had never seen a woman becoming a scientist, until I discovered the history of Marie Curie and I decided that it was possible for me to be a scientist.
What’s your favourite part of your everyday work?
When I make mistakes and I have to learn from them. Before doing my first research work, I used to think that scientists never make mistakes and that it was a linear job, but then, I found out that being a scientist means making a lot of mistakes and to keep trying. Learning that you can be wrong, that everyone makes mistakes and to find the fun in that is amazing. Also, usually when I don’t the results that I expected, I have to learn new things and this is good for expanding my curiosity.
What’s the biggest challenge you feel that you (and/or people in similar positions to yours) face today?
The pressure to be extremely productive and forget about enjoying our job: As a scientist if you want to be recognised or get a good position, you will need a full CV. It is a competitive field, where everyone is trying to do their best, and sometimes, in order to have an amazing CV, we forget why we became a scientist and what inspired us in first place: The love of nature, and our curiosity.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far?
That scientists are real people, who make mistakes, who has a life outside the research. Before being in this field, I used to view scientists as distant people, like superheroes, but in fact they are normal people, like you, like me. It helped me a lot, because then I convinced myself of the fact that I would be a real scientist.
Why are you interested in communicating science to students?
Because when I was a student I had questions - questions about scientific stuff - and no one had answers. I felt frustrated and I thought that my questions where wrong and that they were annoying but no, in fact, they were good questions! I would like to be the person that answers the questions that little kids have, and introduce them to the scientific world. Also, I want to share with them that scientists are real people, like them, and encourage them to follow this path if they are interested in science!
Are you involved in any other projects, apart from Lecturers Without Borders, related to science outreach? If so, could you tell us more about them?
Yes! I’m part of Art of Inquiry, as an astrobiology instructor. Here, I give classes and webinars about astrobiology for kids and encourage them to ask questions! Also, I’m part of a research group at the University were we occasionally do science outreach.
Outside your career, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy reading poems and writing them! Also, I spend time with my friends and we usually go out for walks or we try to visit places out in nature, like waterfalls or mountains. When I spend time at home, I like doing embroidery and watching series.