Here at NCEI, we aren’t just data—we are people. In our Humans of NCEI series, meet the awesome minds that manage one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic research in the world. Get to know Mia Infante, an oceanographer who works with stakeholders to grow their awareness, understanding, and use of NCEI’s data.
What is your specific area of expertise?
I am an oceanographer at NCEI’s Oceanographic and Geophysical Information Service Branch at Stennis Space Center where I am responsible for engaging with stakeholders to grow their awareness, understanding, and use of NCEI’s data.
What was your first job? How did it prepare you for your current position?
My NCEI position is my first full-time job. I did participate in a variety of internships throughout my undergraduate and graduate school years, such as the Woods Hole Partnership and Education Program.
How did you end up at NCEI?
I was hired through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act program, which was signed into law in March 2019. Its purpose is to bring the younger generation of scientists into national service. I learned about this program through my Woods Hole Partnership and Education Program coordinators.
What question are you asked most often when someone finds out what you do? How do you respond?
Mostly, what is an oceanographer, and what is the purpose of NOAA and NCEI? It then proceeds to me being asked what led me to this career choice, what I studied in school, and why I am passionate about the ocean.
What sort of training and education would one need for your job?
I graduated from Texas A&M University-College Station in December 2019 with a Masters of Geosciences, specializing in oceanography with a minor in geography. I also have a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).
Throughout my undergraduate and graduate years, I did various jobs and internships. My internships included being a park ranger intern with U.S. Fish and Wildlife at Chincoteague, VA where I did environmental outreach and education. I did two research internships at Woods Hole, MA. One was with the Woods Hole Partnership and Education Program (PEP) in 2016 and with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Summer Student Fellowship in 2017. Both involved studying the physical oceanography of the New England coastal region.
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?
Since middle school, I have loved and cared for everything about the environment. However, the ocean is my true love which I realized during my Woods Hole internships.
What projects are you working on now? Are there any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
One project I have been becoming involved in is working with the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Science Outreach Team on NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Data Portal and Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Map Portal.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I am just beginning my career and excited for all the opportunities I have to both grow as a scientist and contribute to society.
What challenges have you had to deal with in your career?
People telling me I was not good enough to be a scientist or smart enough to complete my education while facing discrimination based on my gender and ethnicity.
Who are you outside of your career?
I am an avid reader, photographer, and movie-watcher but I also enjoy rock climbing, biking, and swimming. In addition, I attend the occasional Broadway show.
Last book read?
Jon Gertner’s “The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future” and Marie Lu’s “Rebel”.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
When I start talking about something I am passionate about (like the ocean) I get really excited, so don't let this scare you.