Staff Spotlight: Sophie Chu

Research Associate

Sophie with a turtle on the beach
Sophie Chu

Sophie received her B.S. in chemical engineering from Columbia University in 2009. After graduation, Sophie worked as a lab technician at the Columbia University Medical Center. Reading the New York Times one day, she learned that due to pollution and ocean circulation, there was a garbage island accumulating in the North Pacific Ocean. This unpleasant truth inspired Sophie to apply to graduate school for oceanography. In 2017, she received her Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In her Ph.D., Sophie studied carbon cycling in the open ocean and in coastal salt marshes. She spent a major portion of her thesis developing and deploying a prototype sensor capable of simultaneously measuring pH and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). Shortly after her handing in her final thesis, Sophie moved to Seattle and started working as a postdoctoral research associate for JISAO as part of the NOAA PMEL Carbon group. She continues to work on evaluating and developing ocean carbon sensors and recently became a research scientist in April 2019.

What do you like best about working for JISAO?

Working for JISAO grants me exposure to many different areas of research both at UW and at NOAA. It’s interesting to meet and become acquainted with experts from a variety of ocean and atmospheric science fields.

What do you find most challenging at your current position?

I work on multiple, stimulating research projects which can be challenging to balance. I can get absorbed into a project, making it can be hard to jump between projects quickly. I’m working on being better with managing my time.

What aspect of your role do you enjoy most?

In my research, I get to work closely with engineers to test different types of sensors. It’s fun to learn how each sensor works or why it doesn’t work, even though troubleshooting can be frustrating.

Where would you like to go on a dream vacation?

My dream vacation is to go to the Galapagos Islands. I’ve been obsessed with turtles since I was very young and I’d love to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat.

Any hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

In graduate school, I started collecting seaglass and amassed a pretty large collection. When I moved to Seattle, lack of nearby beaches with lots of wave action led me to substituting this love of walking-slowly-while-looking-at-the-ground to mushroom foraging.

Any random facts you could share with us?

I am a descendant of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.