Our next STEMtember Snapshot features Sarah Sweat. Sarah is the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst for the Tennessee Aquarium! GIS involves the use of data to solve questions or problems spatially. Sarah also works with the Tennessee Aquarium's field biologists to survey for fish, salamanders, or turtles!
Q. What sparked your love for the STEM field?
I always loved the topic of science in school. I remember going camping as a child and always playing in the creek behind our campsite and being excited about finding crayfish and frogs in the creek. This is what led me to majoring in Environmental Sciences in college.
Q. Did you go to college? If so, where and what did you study?
I went to college at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, GA. I have a BS in Environmental Sciences and an MS in Biology from the same school.
Q. What is your favorite subject in STEM?
My favorite subject in STEM is definitely a tie between Science and Technology. I use both on a daily basis and have always had interest in both since I was younger.
Q. Was there someone in your life that encouraged you to pursue a STEM related career?
My love of technology comes from my father who has had a job my entire life in the IT field. Growing up around technology definitely gave me a knack for computers.
Q. What would you say to other girls or parents of girls who are interested in STEM fields?
Get outside and explore! You don't have to go very far in the southeast to explore all of the cool critters you have in your backyard. We also live in a society where technology is easily accessible. Whether it's your iPhone or a computer at your local library, there is always a place you can explore technology.
Q. Can you give a brief description of your current profession and what a typical day looks like?
My current profession is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst. GIS involves the use of data to solve questions or problems spatially. Many professions use GIS including utilities, emergency management, engineering, and wildlife/conservation just to name a few. From this data you can build maps or interactive applications for people to see the data or summarize your findings. I would say 95% of my days involve me sitting at a computer. However, it is not always the same work. Data with every conservation project is different and it allows me to have a wide variety of tasks that keep it from being the same every day! The other 5% of the time I get to go in the field with our field biologists and survey for fish, salamanders, or turtles! Those are truly the best days of work!
Q. What do you love about your job the most?
What I love most about my job is seeing the difference my role has with communicating science to not only scientists, but to the general public. Building different maps or applications can really help people understand the science on a deeper level than just reading a paper can offer.
Q. What's one of your favorite projects you've worked on so far?
One project I am very proud of is the Freshwater Information Network which is an interactive database of fish locations. People can discover what lives in their watershed and see pictures of all the beautiful fish we have in the southeast. www.tnacifin.com
Q. Anything else you would like to share about your experience in the STEM field?
This field is constantly changing! What was advanced 5 years ago is now common. Working in the STEM field provides a way for life long learning since there is always new tools or technologies we can use to advance conservation.