Having grown up in Iowa and Utah, Kim Popendorf often gets asked how she ended up studying the ocean. One answer is that she fell in love with dolphins at a zoo, like most eight-year-old kids seeing one for the first time, and her interest in marine life has been steadily scaling down ever since: from dolphins in elementary school to seastars and crabs in high school, to phytoplankton in college, and now marine bacteria in graduate school. Another answer is that she’s fascinated with the connections between biology, chemistry, and geology in large-scale Earth processes, and she found that the ocean is an intriguing and fun place to study these connections. She’s spent the last several years in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program studying lipids in marine microbes with her Ph.D. advisor Ben Van Mooy. When she’s not on a boat or in the lab, she likes to get back to the mountains in Utah and experience water in another globally important form: as snow under her skis! Science writer Joel Greenberg was her mentor on this article.