Real Scientists is living our most extreme super-villain lair fantasy this week with Dr Cassandra Smith (@C_MarieSmith), a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Alaska Volcano Observatory studying volcanic lightning (see?). We found out about Cassandra Marie’s background and how she got into volcanic lightning.
Welcome to Real Scientists! Can you tell us how you got into geology?
I love knowing how things work and problem solving. My science classes/Science Olympiad club were always my favorite while I was growing up.
I decided on geology when I was in 8th grade. I loved the movie Dante’s Peak and really admired the main volcanologist Harry Dalton (played by Pierce Brosnan). 8th grade was also when I took Earth Science for the first time and I loved it, decided that was what I wanted to study in my life, and I never changed my mind.
What are you currently working on, and OMG, volcanic lightning?!
My work focuses on volcanic lightning and how it may be used to supplement and improve volcanic warning/monitoring systems. By better understanding where and when volcanic lightning occurs we hope to be able to better monitor remote volcanoes and better forecast where eruption clouds are traveling.
Besides knowing that this incredibly cool-sounding research area exists, what do you want people to know about your work?
If you ever fly, you should care about volcanic monitoring. Some of the most heavily travelled air-routes fly near, or over volcanic fields. Volcanic ash can damage jet engines and has caused planes to stall mid-flight. By improving the notification and tracking of ash-bearing eruption clouds planes will be able to be routed around this dangerous hazard.
What do you get up to when you’re not in the lab?
I love to bake – decorative pies are my favorite thing to make but over the last year I have also started experimenting with macarons, cream puffs, and other french pastry. I also just recently moved from Florida to Alaska so I have been spending a lot of my free time hiking and exploring my new state.
What does a perfect day off look like for you?
Spending my grad school years in Florida made me really love the beach so my ideal day off would involve sleeping in, having a lazy brunch, and then driving out to the beach to read (post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels are my favorite), sunbathe, go shelling, and watch the sun set over the ocean.
Cassandra Smith, welcome to Real Scientists!