My name is Alex Phillips and I am a fourth-year graduate student working on my PhD in geochemistry. I grew up in San Diego, volunteering at my local aquarium and falling in love with all things marine biology. While at UC Santa Barbara, I realized that my true passion was marine chemistry. I worked on lab projects and research at sea that took me everywhere from oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the submarine Alvin to bubbling methane Seeps in Southern California. My PhD at Caltech is a continuation of my marine chemistry background, focusing on the organic chemistry of ocean sediments and water.
It was so great to show her that physics and math are intertwined – if she could conquer one, she could conquer the other.
I have been volunteering with the Rise Program for two years now and really enjoy mentoring high school students and preparing them for college. One of my favorite moments was with my student who was studying calculus and physics. We had spent the last few months understanding derivatives, and she really had them down now, but when she looked at her physics homework there was so much dread on her face looking at the complicated equations for Newtonian mechanics. I put her book aside, and we derived the equations by taking derivatives and it was the most amazing “aha” moment to witness. It was so great to show her that physics and math are intertwined – if she could conquer one, she could conquer the other.
I noticed that the Rise Program has a long hiatus over summer break and approached the Caltech Y staff about extending the program to include SAT prep over the summer for juniors and seniors. We had an 8-week pilot program this summer and already saw improved test scores! I am so thankful for the Caltech Y for listening to my idea and helping see it come to life. Many students in Rise come from families that cannot afford private SAT tutoring. This was a special chance to make that happen for them. I hope that more students and tutors will sign up in the future and more donors will consider sponsoring student’s SAT fees!
It is so important that Rise provides role models for young students. I grew up with a mother who is an incredible scientist, and she really shaped my career. I wanted to provide a platform for others to see successful women in science, to show both future and current girls in school, so I started Women Doing Science @women.doing.science an Instagram account that features diverse women in STEM! This Instagram highlights women in the field or in the lab, actively doing science. I hope that this account will inspire future generations of scientists and engineers, as it has already inspired me more than I thought possible.
The 2018-19 Rise Program is supported by The Roethke Family Funds. Rise student scholarships are funded by the Caltech Y Tom M. Apostol Fund for Science and Math Outreach. New Rise equipment is funded through a grant from The Tournament of Roses Foundation.