My mother was an excellent teacher and her most important lesson to me was learning how to learn. She gave me the tools to ask my own questions and find my own answers. Carl Sagan was a big influence, first through his Cosmos series, and then through his writings. He and my favorite science fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke, are able to take complex and subtle ideas and make them accessible to anyone without robbing them of their beauty and elegance. Like them, I strive to convey both the information and the excitement of my work, regardless of my audience. And my best friend in high school, Meredith Patterson, showed me (by her example) that even though I was passionate about science, math, and engineering, I didn't have to fit into the standard mold for the 'nerd' or 'bookworm.' Though it pre-dated the show by decades, I learned from her that my personality needn't be limited to the character types in the cast of "The Big Bang Theory" (Nonetheless, I'm a fan!).