Meet our Alumni: Andy Frassetto, PhD '09

Andy Frassetto in the fieldSenior Project Associate, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS)

The IRIS office in Washington, DC advertised a utility player-style position (Project Associate), which required a strong understanding of seismology and the flexibility to platoon across many projects ranging from routine seismic data analysis to evaluating instruments, managing budgets, and writing technical proposals.

This job turned out to be a perfect fit for my style and interests. As a science facilitator in a small organization, I work in a collaborative environment that mixes research, management, and outreach.

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Please describe your career path: How did you get where you are today?Andy Frassetto in Iceland
As a kid I knew that I really liked geology and was good at math. Following my undergraduate degree in geophysics at University of South Carolina, I spent five great years in Tucson studying earthquake seismology and tectonics. Within a month of defending my Ph.D., I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark for a post-doc that applied seismic imaging methods from my dissertation to a new dataset. Living in Europe was an adventure, but the dataset and working environment were problematic.

I was developing serious concerns about my next steps as a scientist, especially during a time (2010) with few faculty positions hiring. I also wondered about maintaining a work-life balance and landing somewhere that would provide my now-wife, an artist/teacher, with good career opportunities. Fortunately, for years at Arizona I had also worked with IRIS, the NSF-funded seismology research consortium/facility. As I pondered these challenges, the IRIS office in Washington, DC advertised a utility player-style position (Project Associate), which required a strong understanding of seismology and the flexibility to platoon across many projects ranging from routine seismic data analysis to evaluating instruments, managing budgets, and writing technical proposals. This job turned out to be a perfect fit for my style and interests. As a science facilitator in a small organization, I work in a collaborative environment that mixes research, management, and outreach.

Andy Frassetto writes on a clipboard in the fieldWhat advice would you offer current Geosciences students?
A few good habits helped me at Arizona and since. Discuss research with your colleagues and be able to speak across disciplines. Beyond that, clear and concise communication is critical. First, it makes collaborations far easier. Second and more importantly, taxpayers fund a large portion of geoscience research, and scientists should try to articulate the societal importance of their work and basic research at the level of a layperson. (How would you describe your work to your parents, assuming they do not have graduate degrees in the geosciences?) Third, work on giving visually interesting and verbally engaging scientific presentations. Do not use Comic Sans or Papyrus font under any circumstance. Put these skills to use by engaging with policy-makers on the importance of scientific research, either individually or through professional organizations like GSA or AGU. Finally, along the way seek as many professional opportunities (workshops, short courses, research cruises/fieldwork, internships) as possible. My original work with IRIS was an optional summer job that ended up opening a career path that I had never considered.