I received my BS in 1991 and my PhD in 1997, both degrees in Physics and both from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. My PhD thesis topic was in computational astrochemistry and was conducted jointly at NASA Ames Research Center with Dr. Xander Tielens and at RPI with Dr. Wayne Roberge.
After completing my PhD, I became a National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Associate, conducting research in planetary science under the mentorship of Dr. Chris McKay.
From 2000-2004, I was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington in Seattle, carrying out research in astrobiology with Dr. Don Browlee. Also during this time, I taught astrobiology, physics, and astronomy at Seattle University. Shortly before joining the faculty at SJSU in Fall 2004, I served on the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) as a member of their reconnaissance team for the 2003-04 field season.
I came to San Jose State University as an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy in 2004. I continued my research in various topics of astrobiology as a co-investigator with the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, one of the NASA Astrobiology Institute's lead teams.
I have taught many different courses, including the entire calculus-based physics sequence for engineering majors, a graduate course in astrobiology for science education MS students, an undergraduate course in astrobiology for science and engineering majors, astrophysics, thermodynamics, and general education astronomy.
I was awarded tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in 2010. I became full Professor in 2015. In 2017, I became the Chair of the Department (the first woman to hold this position in the 50-year history of our department). In recent years, I have been redirecting my research efforts toward supporting STEM student success: my Physics 50 classroom is now also my laboratory. I am working closely with the College of Engineering to promote student success at the level of Physics 50 and earlier in the engineering curriculum.
I am particularly interested in developing individualized data-based advising plans to help students make the difficult transition through the lower division major-support courses (e.g. Physics 50), so that they emerge well-prepared for the rigorous major-specific engineering courses that await them.
When I am not in the classroom, I can usually be found outside. I am into hiking, backpacking, long-distance running, and mountain climbing. I have run the Seattle Marathon and the Phoenix Rock n Roll Marathon, and climbed Mt. Whitney, Mt. Rainier, Mt. McLoughlin, and many smaller peaks in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges. I also love to travel to unusual places. Some pretty cool places I've been: Antarctica, Western Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Alaska, and the (former) Soviet Union.