LPI Welcomes Education Specialist Grace Beaudoin

May 24, 2021

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Grace doing fieldwork in the Western Alps of Europe as part of her Ph.D. research.

The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) recently welcomed a new Education Specialist, Grace Beaudoin. Grace will be helping with LPI’s Public and Scientist Engagement programs. She is finishing up her Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from University of Texas at Austin, where she served as a graduate research assistant and head teaching assistant. Her outreach experience includes acting as a K–12 GeoFORCE Educational Coach, along with other outreach activities. Read LPI’s interview with Grace Beaudoin to learn more.

LPI: How did you become interested in STEM/Geosciences, and when did you know that you wanted to pursue STEM/Geosciences as a career?

GB: I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world and knew I wanted to study science from an early age. In high school, one of my favorite TV shows was called “The Universe,” which used to play on the History Channel. It’s the only show I own on DVD! I made sure to watch new episodes every week and was so inspired by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the presenting scientists. In college, I studied geology and knew I had found my passion when I first observed the beauty of metamorphic rocks under a petrographic microscope. But I never forgot the impact that “The Universe” had on me; I hoped to one day be able to share the excitement for discovery with others that that program had stirred in me.

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Grace (left) and her Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Jaime Barnes, at a field site in the Western Alps.

LPI: Did you have a mentor or another person in your life who was influential to your career?

GB: I’m so fortunate to have grown up in the presence of many supportive adults who advocated for my education and encouraged interests. My mom and my sisters have always been my greatest source of love and support. I am grateful to all the amazing educators who dedicated their time to teaching and supporting me throughout my academic journey.

LPI: What is your educational background?

GB: I received my B.A. in Geology from the University of California at Berkeley in 2015. I completed an undergraduate honors thesis with Dr. Sean Mulcahy, focusing on geochemical processes in exhumed metamorphic rocks from the Franciscan subduction complex.

I began a doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences in 2016. I am advised by Dr. Jaime Barnes and have been researching the abundance and behavior of halogens during the subduction of altered ocean crust. I plan to complete my Ph.D. in the fall of 2021. During my time as a graduate student, I served as a teaching assistant and mentor. It was in these roles that I felt most fulfilled and excited to interact with scientific material.

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Participating at a public outreach event through the Environmental Science Institute's “Hot Science — Cool Talks” at University of Texas at Austin.

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Grace and her partner in San Francisco, CA.

LPI: What do you like most about working in Education and Public Outreach?

GB: There is a sense of responsibility, purpose, and fulfillment that I get from science education and outreach that I don’t derive from other pursuits. Personally, I feel that there is nothing more significant than striving to support learners of all ages in developing an appreciation for and understanding of the wonders of the natural world.

LPI: What do you most look forward to as it relates to planetary science over the next 10+ years?

GB: In the near term, I’m very excited about the findings of the Mars 2020 mission and the launch of the JWST. Over the next decade, I’m really looking forward to the return of humans to the moon with the Artemis missions! I think we’re seeing a renaissance in the public’s excitement and engagement around planetary exploration. I hope this enthusiasm continues to grow!

LPI: How can we all increase our scientific literacy?

GB: I think that science is easier to understand when it feels relatable. So, in my opinion, one of the best ways to increase scientific literacy is to hear from scientists themselves. Attending public talks, workshops, and Q&A panels helps us learn about what’s going on in the scientific community and relate to the folks carrying out the research on a more personal level.

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Minka and Wynnie.

LPI: What do you like to do for fun?

GB: Outside of work, I spend time playing video games, being distracted by my two wonderful cats (Minka and Wynnie), and tending to my burgeoning collection of houseplants. I also enjoy playing volleyball and am learning to sail with my partner, Scott!

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