Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Christine is the Associate Director for Science at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at University of Colorado Boulder, as well as a Research Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. With undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemical engineering, Christine is an expert on wildfire impacts on air quality. Among her many scientific accomplishments, Christine developed a global fire emissions model that is now widely used to quantify smoke released from fires around the world. Today Christine serves on the Board of the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN), an international science organization that she helped found in 2002.
What is your favorite part of your job or STEM career?
It's so hard to pick one thing. I love the privilege to look at issues that I think are important. I love the many different people I get to collaborate with and learn from. I love the places my career has taken me. I love that it continually changes. I have been so fortunate to have a career in STEM.
What's the best piece of career advice you've ever received?
I have had a lot of great advice along the way. One of the best was from a senior and very prestigious person, who said that if an opportunity comes along and it's just not the right time (for example, due to life circumstances or other commitments) - say no and know that another great opportunity like that will come along at a later time. (Or, in short, saying no today doesn't mean you can't say yes to it in the future.)
Tell us about a couple of favorite books, podcasts, TV shows, or movies.
I listen to a lot of music - more than podcasts. But I really love the stories of The Daily.
One of my favorite books, which makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, is "Sex Lives of Cannibals" by Maartin van Troost. Maartin writes about the time when he and his girlfriend at the time (now his wife) lived on Kiribati in the South Pacific.
Tell us about a defining moment or turning point in your career.
I have had several, but one was in college. I was planning to go to medical school while I pursuing a chemical engineering degree. It was my junior year - and I was taking a lot of hardcore engineering classes as well as embryology (a pre-med requisite). I realized
somewhere halfway through the year that I really disliked embryology, and the thought of moving on to med school became horrifying. At the same time, I was loving my engineering classes. I spoke to some professors and realized I wanted to become an engineer and NOT a doctor.
How have you overcome challenges in your education or career?
From almost dropping out of graduate school (I failed my qualifying exams after my first semester and was miserable- but stuck it out and eventually loved it), to getting through a pretty awful divorce with a lot of personal issues while keeping up at my job. I continue to have significant challenges every day (which is some of the best and worst parts of my job).
What do you wish everyone knew about your field/job/career?
Anyone can have a job in STEM and there is SO much out there. People in science are not just sitting at a lab bench by themselves - most jobs I know require social skills, emotional intelligence, and the ability to lead.
When did you know you wanted to pursue STEM?
Early on. I always loved my science and math classes, and I had thought I wanted to be a doctor from a young age. That changed when I got into engineering, but I still loved the science and math! (In high school, as soon as I could, I quit taking a foreign language and took extra math classes).
Where do you get energy and motivation, outside of work?
So many places. Hanging out with my kids (Sometimes! :) ).
I love to exercise or get outside, and that also helps with stress. I love being with friends.
Seeing live music. Going to a beach on vacation. Reading a really dumb book (nothing serious!!). I was also a women's lacrosse official for 20+ years, and that was also a great source of energy. However, I retired this year!!