While most of us explore the earth beneath our feet, Anna Mittelholz looks up to the sky. Anna is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, working in Dr. Catherine Johnson's lab. Dr. Johnson has been involved with a few missions, including the latest: the InSight mission to Mars. Anna's research will use the data collected by the lander once it reaches Mars later this year. The launch was completed successfully just a few weeks ago! Read more about it here.
I met Anna when I was finishing my PhD at UBC in a different geophysics lab and being a space nut, I was (and still am) fascinated by the direction she is taking her geophysical career in. I reached out to Anna to ask her a few questions and introduce her here on WGC's blog. At the time, she was in California for the launch of the mission, followed by climbing in Yosemite.
Sarah Devriese: So you’re currently in California for the launch? How do you feel?
Anna Mittelholz: I feel pretty good!! It was very exciting to be there for the launch. And of course I’m relieved everything went well!!
SD: How did you first find out about geophysics?
AM: I started studying geosciences because initially I wanted to learn about the earth. Geology felt too qualitative so after 6 months I started specializing in geophysics. In my 3rd year during my undergrad I did an internship with Kayser Threde, a company building satellites; that’s how I got into space. I kept working there halftime while finishing my degree. My honours thesis was about single station seismology on Mars because I was interested in InSight. So I started working on the mission back in 2013 in a way.
SD: How did you end up at UBC? In Dr. Johnson’s lab?
AM: I started working with Catherine because she was actually working on InSight as co-investigator and I wanted to be more involved. She is on the magnetometer and seismometer team, but she needed someone working on the magnetic field. This meant switching from seismology, which seemed exciting to me. And then Vancouver… who doesn’t want to live there??!!
SD: What do you think would help keep young girls in math and science fields?
AM: I think just talking about science making people, especially girls, excited will keep girls in this field. And we need to stop talking about a fear of math, or about a natural lack of ability to do math. I think a lot of people hear it from someone and just think they are not made for math, physics, or whatever it is.
SD: A dreaded question for any PhD student… What’s next for you, after the PhD?
AM: Haha yeah, dreaded question. I might actually stick around for a bit to keep working on InSight since we first get data in the fall so shortly before I finish. And I do want to see some of the data!! After that, I don’t know.
Thank you, Anna, for sharing with us and being a Leading Lady! We wish you all the best as you finish up your PhD and look forward to hearing more about your work on Mars!