Julio Herrera Estrada *17, CEE

Applied Scientist, Descartes Labs

I am an Applied Scientist at Descartes Labs, a startup that develops software for geospatial data analyses and related solutions for businesses and government. As an Applied Scientist, I help teams advance their progress towards their sustainability goals and understand the impacts of climate variability by using statistical and machine learning methods combined with satellite imagery and climate data. Prior to joining Descartes Labs in the summer of 2019, I was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Earth Systems Science at Stanford (2017-2019) as well as a Short-Term Consultant at the World Bank working on disaster risk management (2018).

As a PhD student at Princeton, I researched the causes and impacts of droughts in North America under current and future climates, and was funded by the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship. At the same time, following my joint passion for science policy, I often attended seminars and events at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and eventually completed the graduate certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy. During my time at Princeton, I was a member of the Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars, the Latino Graduate Student Association, and the Task Force on the Future of the Graduate School. Further, I also helped start on online publication on sustainable development called Highwire Earth and was a Resident Graduate Student at Rocky College. I started my PhD at Princeton right after completing my undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics at Columbia University in 2012. I am originally from Mexico City, Mexico, and in my spare time, I like to run, swim, ice skate, and ski.

"I was amazed by how willing Princeton alumni were to take the time to speak with me about their career paths when I was a PhD student. For the same reason, I am excited about the opportunity to pay it forward. Also, I have learned that building a career is a constant work-in-progress, and that the friends that you make at Princeton and the broader Princeton alumni network can continue to play an important role as your career evolves.

I highly encourage you to reach out to Princeton alumni and others in your network to learn more about their organizations, positions, and the trends in the sectors that interest you. One likely outcome from doing this will be to discover that the choice is not really between academia and not-academia but rather that there are a wide variety of positions out there in government, business, nonprofit, journalism, etc., that you are qualified for and that allow you to continue building on the domain expertise and skillsets that you have gained at Princeton.

During my postdoc, I also learned about the concept of applying design principles to our careers such that, instead of trying to craft our ideal careers or job titles, we start by imagining a few interesting paths and identify ways to "prototype" experiences to understand better what it would be like to pursue each one. I like this approach because it takes the pressure off from making the "best" move right after the PhD. Instead, it encourages you to try different experiences, learn from them, pick an option, and repeat this process as you continue learning about what you like and don't like, and about what opportunities are out there. I was excited to learn about the creation of GradFUTURES and look forward to the opportunity to contribute however I can!"

I have participated in the following GradFUTURES programs: Graduate Mentorship Program

Yes, I am open to being contacted by a Princeton Graduate Student for an informational interview!


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