(Interview & write-up by Kyle Rogers)
Alyssa Rhoden, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, grew up in Arizona. Her mother, who taught gifted programs for elementary schools, pushed her to do science fairs, to talk about atoms, and to think like a scientist at an early age. Enrolling in the University of Arizona’s undergraduate astrophysics program, Alyssa realized she was more interested in planetary science and switched majors. She applied for the NASA Space Grant, working with Professor Rick Greenberg researching icy satellites. After earning her bachelors, and two gap years of planetary science research, Professor Rhoden was accepted to the graduate program at the University of California, Berkley, where she earned her PhD. “My goal is somewhat different. Some people want to be a PI, the Dean of a College, a rock star researcher,” she said. “My goal is to fill my life up with things. My career is part of that but it isn’t all of it.” Professor Rhoden has two sons, Henry and Sam. Their pictures are framed in her office and set as her wallpaper on her laptop.
As a scientist and as a woman, she said, “I hear from other women, how hard it is, the adversity they’ve faced, but I feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky.” She went on to say, “I never felt like I wouldn’t make it because I was a woman.” She also said looking back, and having talked to more women, she can see it’s obvious that women can have a difficult time in their careers as scientists, and otherwise.
Alyssa Rhoden currently researches the geophysics and orbital dynamics of icy moons, including Europa and Enceladus and is involved in mission development to Europa.