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JPL geophysicist, Fernando Paolo, on breaking stereotypes and the influence of strong women in his life

Fernando Paolo: Geophysical Data Scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This week, Nick talks to Fernando Paolo.  Fernando is a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (based at the California Institute of Technology), where he uses remote imaging and high-performance computing to study how the earth’s ice sheets are changing and how that impacts the planet’s climate.

Fernando admits that he doesn’t remember the first moment when he knew that he wanted to be a scientist–but it must have been at an early age.  He recently found videos of himself at five years old, asking his father about what materials his toys were made from.  “I was always very much like that,” Fernando says.  “I wanted to know why things were the way they were.  So the obvious path forward [was to pursue] a scientific career.  Science is always about finding the truth.”

Science is always about finding the truth.

Fernando Paolo

Fernando also talks about his strong connection to the natural world, garnered by splitting his early years between a beach town and in the mountains of his native Brazil.  He believes that experience has driven his lifelong interest in the planet.  He studied Oceanography as an undergraduate at the University of Sao Paulo, before pursuing a master’s in Geophysics and then getting his doctorate from UC San Diego in the same subject.  Recently, he’s become interested in solving environmental problems from outside of academia.  He’s transitioning to a new position with Global Fishing Watch, an nonprofit organization which aims to promote the sustainable use of marine resources.  “I don’t want to give up the kind of work that I’m doing,” he says. In his new job, he hopes to use his skills in data analysis and imaging in order to track illegal fishing activity worldwide.

Fernando’s Favorite Books

Once a Scientist is made possible by support from our listeners! Each week, we ask our interviewee to tell us about their favorite books. If any of these reads catch your eye, you can support the show by using the links below to buy a copy for yourself!

Notes for this episode were written by Sam Asinof.


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