#SoCaltech: Harriet Brettle

Harriet Brettle, from Gamlingay (just outside of Cambridge) in the United Kingdom, is a first-year graduate student in planetary sciences. After earning an undergraduate degree in math from the University of Warwick, Harriet worked in finance for several years before coming to Caltech to pursue a doctoral degree in planetary science.

"I graduated from university with a math degree and immediately got a job in finance, but I always kept this little career notebook where I wrote down things that I wanted to achieve. At the bottom of the list, even when I was working in a bank, there was always this line: Go and work for a space agency. It seemed completely out of reach. I worked in finance, and I couldn't see any link between the two. Then, one summer, I attended a conference at Caltech, the Sagan Summer Exoplanet Workshop. Coming to that conference was a real game changer for me. It opened my eyes to the relevance of my experiences in the finance industry. The theme of the conference was about using statistics to find and characterize exoplanets. I was sitting in on these presentations from grad students and different professors talking about the statistical techniques they used and I was like 'Hey, I recognize this. I've done this before, but for something completely different: finance.' That gave me confidence that I had the skills to go into planetary sciences."

#SoCaltech is an occasional series celebrating the diverse individuals who give Caltech its spirit of excellence, ambition, and ingenuity. Know someone we should profile? Send nominations to magazine@caltech.edu.