Current Graduate Student (2009 – current)
Primary advisor: Dr. Yongkang Xue
Research: Investigates how dust and black carbon deposited on mountain snowpack impacts the hydrologic cycle (e.g. snowpack, runoff) and regional climate
Catalina was born in Romania and moved to southeast Michigan when she was 14. She went to University of Michigan, Ann Arbor for her undergraduate degree, spending the majority of her time in the College of Engineering, where she concentrated in Climate Science in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences (AOSS). Initially uncertain about pursuing a Ph.D., she chose to complete a sequential undergraduate-graduate program at Michigan, receiving her M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences after her bachelor’s degree. In doing so, she gained skills in independent research and took advantage of a summer research internship at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington, D.C. before starting work on her master’s degree. This summer made it clear to Catalina that she wanted to do independent, original research, making a Ph.D. an obvious next step — and specifically, a Ph.D. with research that was “tangible, applicable, and meaningful to society.”
Catalina chose the UCLA AOS program because she was curious about living on the West Coast and challenging herself in a new environment. She contacted potential advisors at UCLA and was able to set up a viable funding plan for graduate work. The attraction of a new environment, a solid foundation for funding, and some family in the LA environs eventually helped Catalina make up her mind and enroll in the AOS department. In her fifth year now, Catalina is about to finish her Ph.D. on track, adding that her ultimate decision to come to UCLA was a great one.
In terms of what she likes specifically about UCLA, she notes that AOS is a smaller community within a large, public research university. This contrast helps her appreciate at once her niche in the research world as well as the opportunities that come with being a graduate student at UCLA. So how does she like Los Angeles? “I love living in LA,” Catalina says. “Most people complain about traffic, but if you get past that, you’ll see how much the greater LA area has to offer.” She explains how LA is a big city that boasts character and culture as well as amazing outdoor activities throughout California. “I really enjoy being outside and having the beach so close by, as well as access to the mountains, the hills, and national parks,” not to mention the solid Mediterranean climate (and the solid wine industry that thrives on that).
After completing her Ph.D., Catalina explains she’d like to use her skills “in a useful and applicable way, one that helps the environment and society coexist in a healthy way.” And the options here are certainly numerous: AOS grads have the technical expertise and earth system knowledge to work in the government or private sector, non-profit organizations, or environmental consulting firms, not to mention the possibility of academia. When she’s not thinking about her next move, however, Catalina tends to gravitate toward outdoor activities, cooking and the LA restaurant scene, and diversion in the form of painting and other artistic endeavors.