Lessons drawn from Nicole’s journey to becoming an astrophysicist.

When Nicole was 15, she knew she was interested in science. However, she did not share a similar interest in school. Our family took her to space-related science events, but this did little to motivate her in her studies.

Nonetheless, Nicole grew fascinated with space. Some time later, I hit upon the idea of interviewing an experienced professional. We were lucky enough to get staff at the Lick Observatory of the University of California to link us up with an astronomer, Elinor Gates.

While distance necessitated a phone call rather than a face-to-face meeting, Elinor patiently answered the questions Nicole prepared, which gave her a valuable first-hand glimpse into what working as an astronomer entailed.

That initial call galvanized Nicole into action. Nicole discovered that astronomers spent a majority of their time writing grant proposals to fund their research. The prospect was unattractive to her.

Months after the call, Nicole refined her search to astrophysics. She eventually contacted Lance Dixon, a professor of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at Stanford University. He kindly offered her an informational face-to-face interview, which clarified her doubts and emboldened her to set her mind on astrophysics as a career goal.

The decision gave Nicole the boost she needed. With a more concrete plan for the future, Nicole no longer needed to be pressured into doing her homework. Her desire to excel motivated her to get into California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science, a prestigious science camp, where she found a community of like-minded students.

Currently, Nicole is working as an undergraduate researcher in Ohio. She has learnt to code in Python to create images of a supernova taken from a high-powered telescope.

Nicole’s experience taught us that finding a career required a process of discovery. In Nicole’s case, it was fortunate that experienced professionals chose to help Nicole make one of the biggest decisions in her life: choosing a career.

However, we learnt the hard way that it was difficult to cold-call and find scientists willing to be interviewed outside of their busy schedules. We realized that there were many other students and job-seekers in Nicole’s position, all unsure of how to start their own journeys of career exploration.

The Call for Conversation

In 2014, Henry Oh and I set up Conversations for Good to help students and job seekers obtain the advice they need to make informed decisions about their careers. We began a database of volunteer mentors who are professionals in various fields of experience. Registered members and mentors are matched up, after which they may arrange to have a friendly chat over the phone or video conference.

The response from our members has been encouraging, and the number of professionals signing up to help is growing. At Conversations for Good, we hope to help students and job-seekers find the careers they love.

Get Involved

If you have been mulling over a direction in life, now is the time to act. Start the conversation today.

If you are a professional, we invite you to join our community of professionals who are part of the drive to mentor and guide the next generation.

If you are interested in helping Conversations for Good in other ways, please contact for more information.