The master of disaster – Mika McKinnon joins Real Scientists!

Bio_McKinnonWe’re happy to welcome Mika McKinnon to Real Scientists – Mika is a freelance scientist mixing science fiction, disasters, and geophysics into a mess of irrepressible curiosity. She has a Masters in Disasters from studying landslides, and has since spent her time lurking on set using science to make stranger fiction, zapping the Earth into revealing its subsurface secrets, and hunting down science to share with the public. Her work has appeared in Stargate, Dark Matter, and debatably Sharknado, and for publications including BBC, New Scientist, io9, Ars Technica, Astronomy Magazine, and others. She’s also caretaker to an adorably grouchy hedgehog, and may be a bit too fascinated with crinolines. After this week, you can keep up with her latest adventures at @mikamckinnon. You can read more about her in her own words below:

Curiosity is a family trait. I grew up with grandparents leading hordes of kidlets on beach adventures to tickle anemones, and parents countering the litany of “But why?” queries with “Let’s find out!” experiments. Science was inevitable. The only question was what type of science would it be?

I work with disasters because it’s somewhere that science and communication are equally important. We can’t completely prevent disasters, but we can mitigate their impact through understanding how they happen and changing our behaviours.

I’m a freelance scientist, working a mix of contracts in disaster research, geophysics fieldwork, scifi consulting, and science communication. It’s the essence of a nonlinear career path in the gig economy, finding ways to do science outside the standard paths of academics or industry.

Science happens in our world every where, every day. It’s not confined to laboratories and neatly outlined in peer-reviewed papers. Being a scientist is a framework for viewing the world, and can apply to many more career paths than those talked about in grad school seminars.

As for disasters:

No one wants to die an unnecessary death.

I volunteer with a disaster response agency (North Shore Emergency Management @NorthShoreEMO).
I’m a resident at a science/arts/outreach makerspace (ManyLabs @ManyLabs)
I serve on the Board of Trustees for a residential science research program for high school students (Summer Science Program, no handle)
I mentor with local women’s science groups, most commonly Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) at local universities.
I volunteer with a science outreach program for the entertainment industry (Science and Entertainment Exchanged @SciEntEx)

I like to make things. Spinning yarn, homebrewing beer, refurbishing engines, or inventing cookie recipes: if it involves physically creating things, I’m game to try it.

A surprising number of my hobbies have evolved into jobs over time, with expertise built up recreationally now being applied in a professional setting. It turns out that watching an obsessive number of procedural TV series is shockingly good preparation for the inversion mathematics of geophysics and piecing together geological formation histories! Similarly, quantitative pet care with little hedgehog has evolved into a form of science outreach through spiky adorability. Freelancers don’t get weekends. It’s like grad school, but without an end and no earning pretty letters after our names.

Please welcome Mika to Real Scientists!

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