std::cout<<"Hello World!"<<std::endl;

5th June 2017
Jessica Baby

I was a weird kid. My Tia(Aunt) and I would watch SyFy shows and I picked up the term Astrophysicist at a very young age. I'd stumble saying the word aloud and I think I just liked how fancy it sounded so I'd walk around saying that was what I would be when I grew up. My family had no idea what that meant but my mom did some digging and found out that Astrophysicists work at NASA so we went on a tour. That is the first step in my career as a particle physicist. Nowhere in my small Texas town had I met a woman of color with a doctorate in physics. Having my mom research what a physicist was and take me to NASA was a privilege I was afforded and I'll always be thankful for that.  So on a tour of NASA, I come to find out that Astrophysicists sit in a room with a lot of coffee pots and even more computer screens. It was not as glamorous as the SyFy shows I used to watch and I lost interest. My mom, however, didn't let my passion for math and science waver. I was put in math and science summer camps and enrolled in charter and magnet schools that focus on STEM and became confident in my abilities to excel in STEM. 

Fast forward to college where I declared a major in Electrical Engineering(EE) which was a practical step for me. I then took my first physics course as a freshman, fell in love with physics (for real this time!) and decided to dual major in both EE and Physics. Though I loved what I was doing, I faced micro-aggressions as an undergraduate. I had countless conversations end in "Man I wish I was black/brown/female so I could've gotten a scholarship or an internship" or underhanded comments about my gender and not being able to do engineering or physics let alone at the same time! It was annoying, but I had a sense of belonging and a defiance towards naysayers that was fostered by my physics advisor, Dr. Richard Cardenas, who told me that it was possible for me to graduate in 4 years with an EE and physics degree. Although representation was lacking, I had a strong ally in Dr. Cardenas who saw my potential and pushed me to achieve it. I was lucky in that way. This was the second privilege that I was afforded towards my career as a particle physicist. With the help of Dr. Cardenas, I was able to secure my first internship as a rising sophomore which is a difficult feat in and of itself. My internship was for Northrup Grumman at Brooks City Base where I worked on optical radiation simulations. I had no knowledge of coding, of Linux, or of optical radiation but I was determined to excel in this position. I performed above and beyond their expectations so much so that they hired me on part time for the rest of my college career.

I worked an average of 20 hours a week with Northrup Grumman as well as another 20 hours a week at St. Mary's University in the Physics Department. In addition to those two jobs, I was also a student tutor for math and physics all while taking a course load of 18-21 hours a semester which I had to get permission from the dean in order to do. You could say I like to bite off more than I can chew… *Hums Formation by Queen Bey*. I felt like a bad ass *cause I slay* and when I graduated college, I secured a full-time position at Brooks City Base knowing that I'd be headed to graduate school within the year. Just needed to get that paper to help with the move. Making the decision to not go straight to graduate school was a gift and a burden. I honed in on my research and programming skills in that year but the knowledge I learned in my physics classes left me. I had to start essentially from scratch and I felt behind once I started grad school. I had never really struggled in classes so I think that's why my confidence never was shaken when micro-aggressions were thrown my way. I swatted them away with ease! That's until I got to grad school……. Y'all will have to wait till post 2 to hear the harrowing story of a young black woman destined for greatness but had to battle the perilous tentacles of Shankar and Jackson! Till then let's recap:

  • I was a weird kid
  • I lean heavily towards workaholic, *I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it*
  • I was a kickass student in college, *I twirl on them haters, albino alligators*