(Interview and write-up by Kyle Rogers)
Born in Australia, Heather Throop is a professor of biology at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and the School of Life Sciences (SOLS). Heather spent some of her early life living in Pittsburgh before moving to Oregon where she spent the rest of her formative years. Graduating from Carleton College in Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Heather thought she might end up as a veterinary doctor. However, once she realized she enjoyed doing research, Heather said, “I didn’t have to think much.” From there, she earned a PhD from SUNY Stony Brook where her thesis focused on air pollution impacts on plans and the insects that feed on them. Heather’s father was one of SESE professor Peter Buseck’s first graduate students, earning a master’s degree in geology.
“Women have made in-roads in biology before other fields,” Professor Throop said, when asked about the state of women in STEM. She went on to say, “Women have accounted for about 50% of graduate students in many biology programs for several decades. This is fantastic, although there is a huge problem with retention of these women in the field — proportionally more women than men do not continue on for careers in science after completing graduate degrees.” which separates it from other STEM fields. Heather is optimistic when it comes to women in STEM, saying, “It’s an exciting time for women in science. I think about how lucky I am to live in a time and place where I have had the opportunity to pursue a career in science.”
Professor Throop’s current research focuses on how carbon and nutrients cycle through plants, soils, and the atmosphere. Most of her work is primarily based in arid and semi-arid environments.