Phoenix’s life story is nothing less than movie-like. Born to two FBI agent parents, she initially studied English. She soon switched to Latin, “but when you find yourself learning a language you can’t speak, there’s a problem.”
She then switched to history, craving some large-scale perspective. From American to British to Ancient Greek and Roman history, it just didn’t do it for her. “It isn’t old enough,” she explained. “It didn’t answer enough questions.” When faced with a career in law or geology, she picked the latter because she “didn’t want to be stuck in a library hating myself.”
Working on ancient volcanoes in the Mojave and piloting submersibles in the Pacific Ocean exploring the Loihi underwater volcano, Phoenix had found her calling. Sitting on the summit of Mauna Loa, she decided that “this is the best. Volcanoes are the best thing ever.”
Since then, she and her husband helped set up Blueprint Earth, a group that gathers scientists of all disciplines together to try to understand the complex intricacies of Earth’s biomes. It also encourages kids to get into the sciences and attempts to show how diverse science can be.
“We bring our researchers into local elementary schools – African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Women – and say hey, these are scientists, and they look like you. We want to show kids of any background they can become a scientist too.”
These are not friendly times for science, however, and faced with a constant assault on basic facts, scientists like Phoenix have opted for a change at the top. 314 Action, the political action committee training scientists all across the country to run for Congress, reached out, and now she’s running for Congress herself.
“We have to get to where the decision makers are,” she explains. “We have to leave our labs, go out and advocate for science because no one else will do it.”
She’s certainly not alone. When it comes to science, there are promising signs that the youngest generation is stepping up to the mantle.