Dr. Deborah Bass, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
What was your first job?
I worked in a dog grooming shop, as a washer and dryer of cats and dogs! I was in the back room washing and drying. It was nothing like playing with the doggies and kitties that I'd imagined! Cats do NOT like to be blown dry!

The funniest story was when I got sent down to the basement to get clean towels out of the washer and dryer that was down there. There was an anti-social mini schnauzer who they'd put down there after his bath to wait to be picked up (it was lit, there was a dog bed, it was carpeted and so forth, just not with other dogs around). I got the towels out of the dryer and then the dog wouldn't let me get back up the stairs! He kept growling at me and I was afraid to go too close, so I stayed there for over an hour.

Finally someone came to get me. They just scooped the snarling little dog up and I went up the stairs! ugh!!
What got you interested in science?
My family has always been in the medical profession, so science has been something we talked about at dinner, etc. I remember learning about methyl mercaptan over brussels sprouts. Google it...
Who has been a mentor for you and how was that helpful?
I've had a couple of mentors over the years, people who I've worked for whose opinion and judgment I trusted. Usually after I stop working directly for them, they have become mentors of sorts, people I can ask questions of when I get stuck.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Hmm. I used to say Personal Trainer. But that's when I was seriously into weight-lifting in graduate school. I loved it (still do, but don't have the time!). I always joke that I'll open a bookstore if this whole science thing doesn't work out, but I don't know that I'd really do that either.

I kind of can't imagine really doing anything else these days because I'm really, really happy in my job. I'm not stay-at-home-mom material, so that's really not an option, even though I adore my kids. Not very helpful, but maybe insightful...