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Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Kimberley Miner

Dr. Kimberley Miner
Dr. Kimberley Miner

Dr. Kimberley Miner is an alumna of the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy Program. She has spent her career understanding earth and climate systems to better predict and mitigate the effects of climate change. This dedication and passion has led her to become a Science Systems Engineer for a new satellite project at NASA. The project, Earth System Observatory (ESO), will generate data that will improve our understanding of the climate, hydrology, land-surface change, natural disasters, atmosphere and more. The launch of the satellite is scheduled for 2027 and we are eager to see the impact this has for a more resilient and sustainable planet.

In the article below, Dr. Miner discusses her career, how the MPA-ESP program prepared her, and advice for current students.

You were recently promoted to Science Systems Engineer at NASA, can you tell us a little more about your role? How long have you been at NASA?

I went from the MPA program and working at Lamont-Doherty to getting a Ph.D. in Earth Science. Out of my Ph.D., I was hired to work for the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., and I just started at NASA just over a year ago.

At NASA, I work as a climate scientist looking at Arctic change, and recently became the Science Systems Engineer for a new satellite project. This project will generate the most precise, fine-scale information on Earth ever generated. The mission is international, with numerous linked satellites, and will be a huge breakthrough in our understanding of Earth, climate change, everything.

Career development is very important for our students and I think they would be interested in hearing the path you took to get to where you are now. How did you find your current position? What resources/methods did you find most useful?

Mentorship has always been a huge part of my career trajectory, and at Columbia Sara Tjossem, Art Lerner-Lam, Jeff Sachs and Kathy Callahan really helped me choose my direction. I will always appreciate their ideas and inspiration.

What do you enjoy the most and what do you find the most challenging in your current position?

I decided to go on to my Ph.D. after ESP because I loved being on the land and wanted to be a professional explorer. Since then, I have traveled to both Poles, Europe and Mt. Everest to do research. My research has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, GQ, and Sports Illustrated— which is just a perk, but always fun!  I have traveled much less since COVID, but have had extra time to write up our findings–which is always helpful– and we will have more interesting research coming out soon.

Are you able to utilize any skills/knowledge from the MPA-ESP program in your day-to-day activities?

The briefing and science communication skills I learned from ESP have been extremely valuable in my career. I work with engineers, policymakers, and scientists from a variety of disciplines, and being able to communicate across silos has made these initiatives successful.

Are there any additional projects you have been involved with that you would like to share?

I am an AAAS If/Then ambassador, a program focused on highlighting extraordinary women in STEM to inspire young girls. Through this initiative, I’ve had the chance to be on various platforms (including CBS) to talk about my work and encourage young people to think about careers in STEM.

What tips do you have for students currently in the program?

My advice for students would be to reach out to the teachers and professionals associated with the program that inspire you. That was how I got my first job out of ESP– and I also learned so much from their life experience.

Delaney Wellington is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs and a current undergraduate student studying Environment and Sustainability at Barnard College.

The Alumni Spotlight series includes interviews with Earth Institute alumni about their career paths, how they became interested in Earth Institute programs, and any advice that would be useful to current and future students.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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