In 2019, I had the wonderful opportunity to mentor Cijin Zhou, a summer intern in our research group who joined us as part of Caltech’s Visiting Undergraduate Research Program (VURP). She worked with me on constraining compositions of ultralow velocity zones and analyzing a suite of elasticity data on lower mantle phases that she compiled from literature. She brought thoughtful ideas and careful analysis to her research, took initiative on discussing her work with seismology graduate students, and at the end of the summer delivered an excellent presentation at the VURP poster session. I encouraged her to apply to Caltech for graduate school and helped support her during the application process, and she is now doing exciting experimental research on Earth’s core as a second year graduate student in our group at Caltech.

Cijin’s final presentation for the Visiting Undergraduate Research Program with co-mentors Vasilije and Jennifer Jackson

Science Communication

From 2017 to 2020, I was heavily involved in the student-run publication Caltech Letters, first as a co-founder and editor, and then transitioning into a managerial role. We created Caltech Letters to fill two major gaps we identified on campus: bringing Caltech’s exciting research to a broader audience in the words of graduate student researchers themselves, and helping train students to communicate their science and ideas through concise, accessible pieces. I initially worked with the editor-in-chief to build a gender-diverse editorial team, recruit authors from across disciplines and backgrounds, and edit pieces for publication. In the managerial role, I communicated weekly with ~15 team members and helped restructure the editorial team for improving workflow and developing a long-term sustainable organization. The site now features 50+ articles, 100,000+ unique readers, and a podcast series.

On-Campus Organizing

I have been involved in a range of on-campus organizing during my time at Caltech, focusing on both scientific efforts and improvements to student quality of life. In 2020, with support from my advisor Jennifer Jackson, I took the lead on organizing an intra-departmental workshop on collaborative studies of the deep Earth. We put together a virtual event featuring talks from student, postdoc, and faculty researchers, with the purpose of deepening interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration on deep Earth topics in the Caltech Seismo Lab. Before that, I was part of a graduate student team for organizing the Seismo Lab Seminar Series, which involved inviting speakers and preparing engaging schedules with various one-on-one meetings and group meals.

I have also worked in depth with student governance and grassroots organizing on campus. In 2019, I helped organize a series of graduate student town halls across various departments and initiated a local student committee in our department. The work of this new committee involved surveying the department-wide student body, preparing data-backed proposals to address various topics raised by students, and meeting with faculty in small groups to discuss details and implementation. Our work focused extensively on issues of equity and inclusion, including the format and rubric for our qualifying examinations, guidelines around safety and accessibility in fieldwork, training and coursework for presentation skills, and access to software for visual design. I was also part of the student-led Caltech for Affordable Healthcare coalition, which did essential work bringing complicated insurance information to students and rallying student body support for new healthcare plans that reduced cost burdens on chronically ill and at-risk students.


I have had several opportunities to be involved in outreach efforts in the local Pasadena community. I helped prepare and work several booths at Caltech’s Science for March, an annual (pre-COVID) outreach event bringing 2,500+ local residents including many families to campus. Before the pandemic, I was also part of a small team effort through Caltech’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach that was crafting a 4-part short course title “Science and Society”, targeted to local middle and high school students. As part of this effort, we prepared curricula and lesson plans, each with different “demos” that we test ran at school outreach events. The goals of the short course included breaking stereotypes around “what does a scientist look like”, drawing connections between science and community needs, giving context to how science has been practiced and funded historically inside and outside institutional structures, and connecting with students’ concerns around the future of our climate and planet.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I hold a strong and sincere commitment to contributing toward essential and transformative efforts to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community of geoscientists. In my view, this must be a multi-pronged and collaborative approach that includes (but is not limited to) developing outreach work for local school children, creating funded internship opportunities for local high school students and undergraduates from diverse backgrounds, addressing systemic barriers in admissions and hiring processes, formalizing mentorship structures, cultivating safe and healthy research group environments, and creating feedback and accountability systems for those in positions of power.

Throughout my career so far, I have learned extensively from crucial role models doing meaningful work along these lines, including my advisor Jennifer Jackson, and through my service work, I have gained experience with developing effective ways to support existing efforts and take initiative on new ones. While there is so much still to be done toward building a modern diverse geoscience community, I am committed to work hard with others in supporting and promoting students and colleagues from historically and presently underrepresented backgrounds. I fully intend to continue bringing my strong commitment to this work to any institutions, communities, and spaces that I am part of in my career and life ahead.