I was never one of those kids that knew they wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut in 1st grade. I wanted to try everything, at least once. I may not have tried everything, but I have followed the opportunities that came my way. I always want to be doing something that I am passionate about, that informs and interacts with the public, and has a basis in Earth science. The rest has fallen into place.
Elementary school lit the spark that became my love for science. At school, working scientists assisted with hands-on experiments. I learned to hypothesize, inquire, and test instead of fill in blanks on a worksheet. Each teacher took the time to provide an authentic curriculum. They also had the time to focus on each student and create an atmosphere where students were passionate about learning.
Sarah with her parents, Cindy and David Crecelius. Credit: Sarah Crecelius.
My parents are also to thank, as they never grew weary of endless questioning. They were always prepared to answer why the sky was blue, why the grass was green, how does this work, or how does that work.
Middle school continued to foster my desire to learn. My math and science teachers created a personal relationship with each student and treated us like adults, holding us accountable for our actions. The effort we put into our work turned into accomplishments we took pride in.
Everything started to come together in High school. The textbook and classroom theories I had been taught were applied to the real world. I saw how STEM topics were connected and how everything was related. I also faced one of my first struggles. As a junior, I was told it is not an accomplishment to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. At the time I considered the comment an insult, but that comment drove me to want to experience everything – from sports to clubs to other extracurriculars to new friends -- learn about myself, my strengths, and my weaknesses. I hadn’t decided on an exact career, but that was ok! My experiences provided a foundation for my passion for Earth science.
Sarah with the president of Ohio State University, Gordon Gee. Credit: Sarah Crecelius.
Being one of few girls in the geography department at The Ohio State University was a struggle as well as an opportunity. I learned that hard work and going above and beyond turned achieving a goal into a great personal accomplishment. Pride in my work helped ensure that I did my best. This character trait is extremely valuable in the working world.
Sarah working at Smithsonian, hooking ventilation up to our research chambers, researching the effect of elevated C02 on Phragmites Australis. Credit: Sarah Crecelius.
Finding a job after college was a challenge. I quickly found that being persistent yet respectful was another helpful trait; I often followed up after job interviews and asked what skills I need to improve when I did not receive a job offer. As a result, I improved with each interview. My experiences have taken me from working with chief meteorologists in broadcasting in Ohio to living in Maryland and assisting with CO2 research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. While it wasn’t evident at the time, each opportunity helped prepare me for my current position. I very much subscribe to the sentiment Thomas Huxley expressed when he said “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something”.
Sarah Crecelius. Credit: NASA.
Today I am proud to be working at NASA as a young professional. The day I felt like a colleague and no longer the newbie particularly stands out in my memory. I have found more than a job; I have found a place where I feel that the work I do is important and contributes to the betterment of society. NASA has been and will continue to be a leader in STEM careers, innovation, and research. It is important to inspire younger generations to pursue projects that help us better understand our planet and to engage the public to support NASA and other science organizations.
That is how I came to be a Woman@NASA, a story I am honored to share.
Written by Sarah Crecelius, Education and Outreach Coordinator at NASA's Langely Research Center.
Make sure to read Sarah's interview on Women@NASA. Then check out the other Women@NASA Earth Science Week interviews with Michelle Gierach and .