I was asked recently, why I choose Geology for my undergrad. I had to think about it for a moment before responding. The answer has a few facets to it. I thought about my path to where I am today and how it has taken many twists and turns and ups and downs and I thought about if I would do it all over again would I choose the same road. All those thoughts are too much for one post so I will focus on the first question, "Why Geology?". Many times I have heard someone joke about the fact that "Steph likes to play in the dirt", or mentions "Rocks for Jocks" as they giggle but those comments clearly have no idea the course load laden heavy with physics, chemistry and mechanics . At UNH, the geology major is part of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Yes that's right , THE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING. You mention the word "engineering" and automatically, you rise in the ranks of academics. My degree was a Bachelors of Science, not a Bachelor of Arts as many other schools. I took 4-5 different physics classes, at least 5 chemistry classes and that's right engineering classes as well, as part of my major. But, I digress and lets get me back to the question at hand, "Why Geology".
I participated in Science at SEA with Sea Education Association in Woods Hole between my junior and senior years of high school. This experience which I will discuss at length in future blog posts began my trajectory into my Geology major. However, I didnt start as a Geology major, I entered UNH as a marine biology major fully anticipating spending my college career getting ready to go into a career in research, working at National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) in Woods Hole. However, reality set in my freshman year as I looked at my course of study and realized I would not be taking any marine biology courses into late into my junior year at UNH after I had taken too many courses in anatomy. After realizing that I wasn't all that interested in anatomy and my strengths lay more in the chemistry side of marine biology, I began to search out majors that would allow me to dive into the courses I really was interested in.
I settled on Geology mainly because it contained courses in Oceanography as well as had a major chemistry base and I could tailor the course load to my personal interests rather than taking a predetermine set of courses. This move proved to be a wise decision because I would go on to not only succeed in Geology but I also ended up marrying my lab partner from Introduction to Geology! Studying geology allowed me an insight into the world around us. I love to solve puzzles and studying geology allowed me to not only utilize my artistic skills that I often push to the side but to get a view of what lay below the soil, to see inside the ground that we place our feet on, and dig in was fascinating to me.
As a geology major, I had opportunities to explore New England, work with a local forestry company to conduct geologic mapping of their properties during a summer internship, assist in geologic mapping projects for the United Stated Geological Service (USGS) and New Hampshire Geological Society (NHGS), conduct an independent geochemistry project to identify parent material of an outcrop as well as participate in a multidisciplinary project with other student engineers. The later of these experiences I will expound upon in a future post.
Geology was the best major I could have chosen for myself and the 9 years that I worked as a project geologist and hydrogeologist were unbelieveable. I am also very proud of the fact that I was the sole female geologist who graduated in the Class of 2001 and one of very few in the major. There are times I really miss working in the field but I am happy with the trajectory that my career has taken and I am excited for what the future will bring.