Surabi Menon on aerosols and working in a climate foundation

If you’re a frequent reader of Nature’s Career section, you’ll have seen a lot of content on various aspects of non-traditional scientific careers (for example, conversations with Nobel Laureate Eric Betzig, a Q&A on transitioning from academia to industry, an editorial on life after academia, and a feature on why top academic prospects might pursue other opportunities).

In biomedical fields, the non-traditional options seem clearer and more abundant than in geosciences, and climate in particular. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find any number of interesting pathways.

My guest for episode 7, Surabi Menon, followed one such pathway. Surabi was a successful researcher at NASA GISS and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working on issues like black carbon and urban heat islands. In 2012, she moved to ClimateWorks, a philanthropically-funded organization devoted to promoting and supporting actions designed to reduce climate change and the impacts of climate change.

Along the way, and almost by accident, she ended up enrolling in an MBA program. MBA/PhD certainly isn’t a combination you come across every day in climate science!

We talk about Surabi’s early life in India, the shock of moving from Bombay to West Lafayette, IN, her initial attraction to observational work and later interest in modeling, collaborating with Jim Hansen, and why, in the face of society’s ongoing reliance on a fossil-fuel-based economy, there’s still room for optimism.

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