Episode 11: Lauren Andrews

Lauren Andrews has done some of the most interesting work I’ve seen on subglacial hydrology — as a grad student, and with a degree of independence that would be unusual in most any PhD.

Credit: Joseph MacGregor

Lauren grew up in a scientific/agricultural household: her father was a groundwater hydrologist but the family also ran a small farm, with a range of animals. Lauren was active in 4-H, an organization that promotes (among other things) individual responsibility and organization, skills that came into play during Lauren’s time on the Greenland Ice Sheet.

After a stint as a consultant on acid mine issues in remote parts of California, Lauren signed up for a PhD in glaciology from the University of Texas at Austin, where she’d immediately clicked with her advisor, Ginny Catania. But a great match with your advisor can’t guarantee a smooth PhD. Ginny’s time was constrained due to family issues, and Lauren had to take responsibility for big chunks of major field campaigns in Greenland. Aside from pre-campaign nausea, there were great moments: blissful isolation, intense focus, and getting engaged on the ice.

Lauren’s idea of how science works seems pretty darn reasonable … begin with a question, gather your data, hash out possible explanations and guesses with some smart people, try to prove your self wrong, and stay open to the possibility that your interpretation might be subject to revision down the road.

We also chat about deciding whether or not to submit to Nature (go ahead!), the frustration and value of dealing with reviewers’ comments, and the impact of having a paper in Nature. In this case, the biggest outcome for Lauren was learning to explain her science, not the career boost you might expect.

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