Holly Gilbert

Goddard Space Flight Center
 

Objects in the sky have fascinated me since before I can remember. My parents called me their "moon baby" since they would take me for walks at night to calm me down where I would be mesmerized by the moon. Math and science always came easy to me in school, where I also excelled in the music program and fell in love with the cello. Having a talent for math helped me learn music, and I even went so far as to attend a boarding school (Interlochen Academy for the Arts) for my last two years in high school as a cello major. Science, math, and music have always been passions in my life, but physics won out as a career choice. My dad was a geologist, so it was very easy and natural to be interested in science. I credit my parents and their uncompromising support for my ambition and achievements as a child.

After graduating from Interlochen, I attended the University of Colorado in Boulder where I majored in physics, knowing that astrophysics was what I wanted to do with my life. I was lucky enough to get an internship at the High Altitude Observatory (HAO) in solar physics. However, when I first started working in the field, I had no comprehension of the vastness of physics and learning the Sun had to offer. I quickly learned how complicated our nearest star is and how little we know about it. I became hooked to learning about the physics of the Sun, and have been working in solar physics ever since.

After obtaining a B.A. from the University of Colorado , I continued working at HAO as an Associate Scientist for 8 years where I had the opportunity to work with the most incredible mentor I have ever known. While working full time at HAO, I was able to enroll in a flexible Ph.D. program through the University of Oslo in Norway . Although I physically lived in Boulder , CO while in this program, I traveled to Oslo for exams and to defend my thesis. This allowed me to maintain my full time position and continue doing research. After obtaining my Ph.D., I decided to accept a job at Rice University as a Research Scientist in the solar group. In 2008, I moved to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

I love doing research and solving problems. I also love to write scientific papers and present talks (neither of which I realized until I started doing them). I think that performing on stage as a cellist helped me enjoy public speaking and giving scientific talks, which is also performance related.

My other interests include reading, hiking, and playing pool.. yes, you read it correctly- I love to compete in pool tournaments around the country and I take the game very seriously. Although I am unable to put in the time required to play at the professional level, I do play enough to win some money in some large tournaments. Billiards is, after all, a game of physics and geometry (my Mom never seemed to accept this).

My advice to young women interested in science (or any other career for that matter) is to always take risks and have confidence in what you are doing. The regret of not pursuing something (either due to fear or self-doubt) is much more painful than failure.

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