Who is radiation physicist Julianne Pollard-Larkin?

Julianne Pollard-Larkin, an assistant professor of Radiation Physics, always loved math and science. As a teen, she once signed herself up for summer school because she couldn’t wait to take her first physics class. In college, she majored in math and physics, and today she holds a Ph.D. in biomedical physics. But she’s more than just a physicist with a white board full of equations. Like her enthusiasm for Zumba workouts, her exuberant shout-outs to colleagues as she strides through a quiet office suite and her willingness to dress up like Princess Leia or SpongeBob SquarePants for kids visiting the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School. Pollard-Larkin may joke about being a “super nerd,” but she reserves for herself the right to set her own expectations for herself. And there’s a story behind that. Aiming high The daughter of a schoolteacher and an Army lieutenant colonel who saw tremendous potential in their children, Pollard-Larkin was taught early to go after what she wanted with everything she had. “If you want it, then put the work behind it, and you can achieve it,” she says. “You don’t let anything sidetrack you.” What she wanted growing up was to be like the astronaut she’d seen on the cover of a magazine: physician and scientist Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel into space. “I knew I wanted to be a scientist right then,” Pollard-Larkin says. But her next encounter with a woman in science was anything but inspiring. She was 14 and revved up about the mysteries of the cosmos the summer she signed up for a physics course in Miami....