Presented by Michael Best, Thinkery’s Wonder Women in STEAM series highlights local female movers, shakers and innovators in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
Get to know this week’s Wonder Women in STEAM, Dr. Robin M. Gose, Thinkery’s Director of Education!
Tell us about yourself! Tell us about your background, education and interests.
An Austin native, I was lucky to grow up surrounded by beautiful and accessible outdoor spaces. From an early age, I’ve been interested in and inspired by the outdoors—a passion that has stayed with me to this day.
This passion led me to The University of Texas at Austin, where I studied environmental resource management. What can I say? I wanted to save the world! After graduating, I went on to work at the Austin Nature and Science Center, where I continued my work in the environmental sciences.
A lifelong learner, I’ve found that each step in my professional journey has been an invaluable opportunity to grow and learn something new. After working at the Austin Nature and Science Center, I knew I wanted to add additional areas of science to my repertoire, so I headed to the California Science Center, where I focused on environmental science and physical science education. I learned a ton!
While in California, I earned my doctorate in educational leadership at University of California-Los Angeles. During this time, I worked as classroom educator, teaching science to students in kindergarten through seventh grade. After obtaining my Ed.D.—and with years of experience in formal science education, educational leadership and museum management under my belt—I returned to California Science Center, which in turn led me to Thinkery.
As you can imagine, I love being outside and exploring the outdoors. But I also love cooking delicious food, reading and singing. I love singing!
What sparked your initial interest in STEAM?
My seminal moment—which I truly believe started my career path in science education—occurred during an overnight camping trip with my fifth-grade class. There we were, standing knee-deep in the river, collecting specimens and water samples, and it hit me—that was science. It wasn’t at all like the “boring” science I experienced in my classroom, or in even my dad’s laboratory, which seemed so far removed from something I could ever do. I was in a river, exploring and learning. It completely changed my perception of what science could be and mean.
This spark led to my first job at the Austin Nature and Science Center. I knew I wanted every kid to have a similar experience, to feel that same spark. No, they didn’t have to go on an overnight camping trip with their class—they could just go to their local park and have an “a-ha” moment with science.
I also had a mentor in college—a professor in UT’s environmental resource management department—who was particularly into birdwatching and urban ecology. I would often accompany him on birding trips, and one experience stands out as especially formative. We went to Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant, a 1,200-acre plant that plays a key role in sustaining Austin’s environment by recycling biosolids. It’s also one of best birding sites in Texas! It’s true—the plant is laid out as a series of retention ponds, creating an urban wetlands area that is very attractive for migratory bird species.
There, I observed how something man-made could end up benefiting the environment—even if it was an unintended consequence. I loved discovering that there are creative ways for humans to work within their environment to solve problems. And I also thought the birding was cool, too!
Who supported or guided you on your path to becoming a Wonder Woman in STEAM?
My father was a research scientist who worked for NASA in the ‘70s. He would always call me his “little engineer,” and that was something that’s always stuck with me.
He has always been my mentor, and I’m inspired by his work to this very day. He was looking at lunar rocks, conducting a tremendous amount of field work, and traveling to Central America to gather rock samples. He was doing some super cool stuff.
Now I’m Dr. Gose, just like my daddy!
Were there any organizations or resources that helped equip and inspire you? Any that continue to inspire you to this day?
As a science educator, I’m inspired by people and organizations that continue to push the envelope and promote innovation and wonder—Monterey Bay Aquarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Maker Ed.
I’ve always felt connected to space exploration, thanks to my dad’s history. NASA’s educational outreach initiative is inspiring and important, and I love their emphasis on storytelling. I love learning about each astronaut’s journey, their educational background and the challenges they’ve faced. I have tremendous respect for NASA and the ways in which they continue to inspire generation after generation.
I also love how science is beginning to creep into popular culture. I mean, how great is it seeing STEAM-focused news stories popping up in my social media feed every single day? It’s the best.
I love that it’s cool to love science!
How would you want to inspire future Wonder Women in STEAM? Any words of advice or encouragement?
Continue to find the thing that makes you excited and passionate—and don’t lose sight of that being your goal. Always look for ways you can make science and STEAM relevant in your everyday life.
I started college thinking that I was going to build a better hydraulic dam, or create a crop rotation that would end hunger, or that I would study lemurs in Madagascar. And while my path has led me to different places, I have never lost sight of my passion. I have never lost the awe that I feel when I see or experience an “a-ha” moment in science.
The more that I can do in the space that I’ve carved out for myself as a scientist, an educator, a communicator, a connector—the more that I can do to share that inspiration—means that I am staying true to myself and to who I was at 10 and 19. Sure, it might look a little different that you thought it would—but it might also be better than you could have ever imagined.
Wonder Women in STEAM is presented by Michael Best. We are so grateful for their generous support.
Special thanks to Barnes Team Media for donating their services to produce the Wonder Women in STEAM series.