Meet Kristine Romich, our October Illuminating Military Spouses in STEM member. Kristine hails from Chicago, Illinois and has an AS in science, a BA in communication, a BS in psychology, and an MS in physics.
Was there a special moment growing up that inspired you to pursue your STEM field?
I always had an interest in physics (astronomy and space physics especially), but I never imagined I’d grow up to do physics for a living. I had some experiences when I was younger that led me to believe I wouldn’t do so well in a math-heavy field. I ended up double-majoring in communication and psychology during my first time in college. After encouragement from my now-husband, I went back to school a few years later. I completed an MS in physics in 2020. I’ve actually found that my background in communication and social science complements my physics degree quite well — the ability to convey technical information clearly and connect with a wide range of audiences is a good skill to have.
What are your interests outside of the office or lab?
I love to spend time outside. I’m currently living in Colorado, so there’s plenty to do! I also have an 18-month-old daughter who keeps me on my toes. When I have the opportunity, I enjoy doing outreach and volunteer work. I’ve given talks on pursuing careers in STEM to students of varying ages.
What inspires you?
My daughter is one of my biggest motivators. I want her to grow up knowing she can do anything she sets her mind to. I’m also inspired by the many people I’ve met through the years who, like me, have had unconventional career trajectories. It takes courage to decide to make a change and then do what you need to do to achieve it. I think that deserves to be celebrated.
Who is your current employer?
I currently work for the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), a partnership of the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
What is your official job title or career field?
My title at CIRES is “Associate Scientist.” I’m part of the space weather team within NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. My job involves optimizing the scientific quality of satellite mission data. In addition to my scientific work, I’ve also taught physics at the college level, most recently as an adjunct instructor at Red Rocks Community College near Denver.
What is one professional achievement you’re most proud of?
Finishing my master’s thesis while navigating a cross-country move with a newborn!
What challenges have you personally faced that your civilian counterparts may not have?
I don’t have the geographic flexibility that civilians often do when applying to schools or jobs. I consider myself fortunate in that I was able to complete a master’s degree at a brick-and-mortar university near my husband’s previous duty station, and that the area where we currently live has ample employment opportunities in my field. Had we been stationed somewhere more remote, I don’t know if my career path would have unfolded as it has.
A unique challenge I faced relates to the fact that I had a prior bachelor’s degree when I went back to school. My husband joined the Air Force right around the time I was finishing my associate’s degree. He was stationed in southern California, and my plan was to complete a BS in physics there. It turned out, however, that most undergraduate programs in southern California wouldn’t accept applications from people who already have a bachelor’s degree. For a while, I thought I’d need to choose between continuing my education and keeping my family together. Thankfully, I found the Open University program at California State University, Northridge, which allowed me to complete the undergraduate physics curriculum as a non-matriculated student and subsequently gain admission to their MS program.
What do you wish people knew about life in the military?
There’s a stereotype that military spouses are uneducated or lack career ambition. In reality, many spouses are interested in pursuing a career, but the circumstances of military life can make it more difficult for them to reach their goals.
What advice would you give new spouses on entering or finding success in STEM career fields?
Build and maintain a strong network. Seek out all the opportunities you can, either in your local area or virtually. And definitely join SMSS!
Do you have any go-to professional organizations, educational opportunities, job resources, or helping agencies that have supported your career growth?
Apart from SMSS, two I’ve had contact with are Hire Heroes USA, which offers free resume tips and personalized job searching assistance to military spouses, and the National Military Family Association, which has a scholarship program for spouses.