CSUSB Advising Podcast

Ep. 33 - What is the Geology major?

September 19, 2022 Matt Markin Season 1 Episode 33
CSUSB Advising Podcast
Ep. 33 - What is the Geology major?
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 33 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Dr. Claire Todd about Geological Sciences! What is the Geology major? What concentrations are offered? What career opportunities are there? What resources are there for students in the Geology major? Find out in this episode!

For more information on the Geology major, visit the Geological Sciences website. You also reach Dr. Todd at claire.todd@csusb.edu

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Welcome back to another episode of the CSUSB advising podcast. My name is Matt Markin academic advisor. And on today's episode, we have Dr. Claire Todd, professor and department chair in the geological sciences department. Dr. Todd, welcome.

Hi, Matt. Great to be here. I'm really excited to talk about our department. We do a lot of great things, so.

yes, absolutely. Looking forward to hearing all about it. So before we started talking about your department, and major, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Yeah, I'm a glacial geologist, which means I study how glaciers and ice sheets respond to climate change. This might be interesting for students because I actually work with students in some of my field areas. So over the summer, I worked with students in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. And we spent a month there studying the largest glacier in the park and how it's responding to climate change. So a lot of my work a lot of my energy, and in a lot of ways, it's the most rewarding aspect of my job is my work as a scientist and sharing that with CSUSB. Students. So that's, that's sort of one of my main driving forces. The other thing I would say to people who are listening to an advising podcast is that myself and I know other faculty members. You know, at some point, we picked our major, right, we picked our geology major, well, for me, and for many of us, it was a curvy path to arrive to geology. So I started I changed my major, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. But it was actually an introductory class called environment in Southern California. That really interested me in the in the world around me that I hadn't noticed in the same way. And so I had a my faculty member said, You should be a geologist. And so that was it. So I encourage students, whatever you're interested in, to think about those moments, ask questions to talk to your faculty members, because there's so many great programs here on campus and it's often those classes that you take to fill a requirement that sometimes may lead you down a path that you stay on for longer than you thought possible. So certainly, for me arriving at geology, it was that moment, I thought I was not going to be a scientist, I was in a science for non science majors class. And here I am, years later, sharing a geology department. So that's another little tidbit about me and how I got here. You know,

I think sometimes students can be a little weary of like faculty, like, Oh, should I ask questions or anything? You think it's a dumb question? And to me, I'm like, hey, if it's in their field, they're probably very excited for you to just talk to them about it. So yeah. And I think from your energy already, just kind of hearing you talk about just this first question. I think students should, you know, be very happy that they have someone like you that they can go and reach out to and talk about CSUSB and talk about geology. Yeah, absolutely.

I love my office doors is always open except for right now. But it's usually open and and it's I love having students walk in even from other majors, you never know, we have a studio art major, who is minoring in geology now. And, you know, you just never know where things are going to intersect and what you might learn in sort of the most surprising places. So yes, please reach out to the faculty and, and to our great staff like Matt, you always learn something new. And that's kind of that's kind of why we're all here.

Yes, yes, for sure. So let's talk about the major, how would you describe the geology major,

I think the key, there's sort of three main aspects that I think for students might be helpful in deciding if geology is right for them. So the first thing is that geology is an interdisciplinary major. We are a STEM major. So we're in the College of Natural Sciences, but our students apply concepts from physics, mathematics, computer science and chemistry. So if you like science, but you can't pick or, you know, you sort of you have sort of a broader level of interest, geology is perfect for you. Because we're engaged in the study of the earth. And, you know, we look around at the mountains and, and in the environment that we live in every day. And the geology, we are studying that environment using lots of different concepts across the natural sciences. So first of all, I would say interdisciplinary, for sure, it's great for people who are indecisive like me. The second thing is that we are a field based science. And so that doesn't necessarily mean that students, you know, have to be outside hiking, but it means that we think about that environment, we think about the natural world, as its place as our laboratory as a place where we are applying ideas and concepts. And so students in our major end up going to places locally and farther afield to think about what they saw maybe in their textbook or in the classroom, and apply it to all kinds of field sites. So we're, we're learning these analytical skills, but we're learning them in the biggest laboratory in the world, which is planet Earth. And so that's, that's an a second thing I would say. So it's interdisciplinary. It's field based. And the third thing that I think is so special about our major, although it's not unique to our major, but it's something that's central to who we are, is that every major completes their own research project on a topic that they are interested in, that can be well supported by our faculty. So it, we it's a well guided experience, our students in the last semester of their junior year, take a project design course. So they get involved in kind of what what goes into designing your own project. They then implement their their research methodology, as they've proposed. And then they present it in their final semester. So students work really closely with with faculty members, and whether it's in a laboratory or in the field or in, in our new computer lab, where students can take data from drones or satellites and process it on really high powered computers. So that that research project part gives students a level of independence where they're a project manager, they are there, they're in the they're engaged in design, they're engaged in their own analysis, but they're they have a faculty member along the way that's sort of guiding them and supporting them. So I would say interdisciplinary, field based, and really valuing undergraduate research as a way for students to kind of gain that independence they're going to need after they leave CSUSB.

Yeah, don't even think about it that, you know, you're talking about that. The world is essentially the laboratory that's the lab and I'm like, that's such a great way to put it.

Yeah, it's um, I feel, I get a lot of energy from that. There's no shortage of things we can study and places we can go.

And I noticed that with geology, there's for CSUSB, there's a BA that's offered. And there's a BSN is offered. So I know a lot of times we get the question of like, well, what is the difference between both of those?

Such a great question. So I would say from the student perspective, the first The first distinction to be aware of is that the BS requires slightly more and more advanced supporting coursework. So we're an interdisciplinary major, which means that our students take an introductory chemistry, math and physics courses to support the the analysis that we do. In the field. And in the lab and elsewhere, the BS requires a little bit more advanced supporting coursework. And the reason for that is that so the BS has two concentrations, you could take a Bachelor of Science in geology, with a general geology concentration, and a Bachelor of Science in geology, with an environmental geology concentration. So we're talking about the Bachelor of Science and there are two options for students. The Bs in geology, with a general geology concentration, we often recommend for students going to graduate school. So if they are, they're coming in perhaps feeling relatively strong in their STEM fields. They're taking that more advanced supporting coursework. The Bs in geology with a general geology concentration gives them flexibility to tailor their coursework to their needs. Now we have students, many of our students who are successful as soon as they leave CSUSB. And sometimes while they're still here, becoming professional geologists, then getting positions of professional geologists. So the Bachelor of Science with an environmental geology concentration is really designed for those students who are seeking professional professional licensure. So that means that's a state governed process. They're pretty specific about what students have to take. And so the Bs in geology, with an environmental geology concentration has much more specific requirements that students have to take. So for students who are coming in feeling relatively strong in STEM, whether they want to go either on to graduate school, or whether they want to become a licensed geologist, the BS is for them. And that, you know, they can pick between the general geology, more flexible version, or the environmental geology, which is a little more specified. Now, I have a BA in geology, and I arrived as a BA in geology, as we've mentioned on a very curvy path. And I wasn't, I was a transfer student. And I didn't actually quite have time or the preparation to really take all of the advanced supporting coursework. So similar here at CSUSB. A Bachelor of Arts does require introductory coursework in chemistry, math and physics, but it's just at a slightly lower level. And so for students who maybe are slightly more new to stem or feel like they need a little bit more, you know, to come in at a slightly lower level at some of those supporting courses. The BA is perfect. And so a similar to the to the BS the BA has two concentrations, the BA with a general geology concentration. Those are for students who are interested In a career in public service, or in education, a lot of our students go on to be teachers. If you're interested in working as a park ranger, for example, the Bachelor of Arts with our general geology concentration is the most flexible, and an excellent preparation for students who may be heading out into the nonprofit sector or for doing no community minded or public service oriented work. So Bachelor of Arts again, that sort of slightly lower level supporting coursework, and then the Bachelor of Arts of general geology, why does flexibility we have, so students can really explore the major in the discipline. If you want that if students want supporting coursework at a slightly lower level, but they're there, they want to become a professional geologist, they can take our BA, but with the field and applied concentration. So there is a path for students who feel like they may need a little bit more, you know, to start a little bit earlier in the the introductory courses, they can get a Bachelor of Arts, but the Bachelor of Arts with the field and applied concentration prepares them for for graduate school or for professional professional licensure. So that's a lot. The key thing is the difference in supporting coursework, the Bachelor of Science has slightly more advanced supporting coursework, chemistry, math, physics, and the Bachelor of Arts is for students who feel like they may want to start a little bit at a slightly lower level and that supporting coursework, but they can still either pursue a more sort of public service oriented career path or a professional professional licensure or graduate school career.

path. Yeah, and I like how you tie it in, like the the differences between both the Bs in the BA, but as well as within each concentration, you know, career options as well. But I think too, we get a question with about careers in terms of, okay, once I get my degree, or as I'm working towards my degree, am I supposed to be doing anything? Aside from taking the classes or field work, you know, well, my faculty helped me with what my next my next step, whatever my plans might be.

Absolutely, in fact, I would say like, that's just sort of one of the major motivating factors we have is as faculty, you know, students come through our program, but we watch them do that repeatedly, and we see where they go. And that helps us just turn around to the current students with all feeling all the more motivated and excited about what lies ahead for them. So our students and many of them actually begin while they're still students. Here. We have them students and alums working in local mining operations. So some of them up in the high desert, one of our alums is the manager of a large mine on the other side of the mountains. So we have in the mining industry, we have students who work on building sites for consulting firms. Anytime you, you, you're building a new building, there needs to be a geologist there to ensure that it is going to be built safely and according to code. And so we have a lot of our majors and graduates who are working on those job sites for consulting firms. And at this stage, many of consulting firms have a lot of our alums already there. And faculty stay in touch with those alums. Because of our field based research based degree faculty, we're very close knit program. So we stay in touch with our alums, and then we can reach out to them and say, Oh, we have a student who's really interested in studying, you know, water resources or water resource management, we can reach out to a local Water Resources Board and say, you know, to our alum there and say, oh, you know, we would, we'd like to connect you with one of our current students. So that's something that we get a lot of energy around, thinking about where our students might end up, and who we know in those professions that can really help guide a student perhaps with an internship, even before you leave CSUSB, or those connections, to help actually land a job after graduation. So and for graduate school, as well. So we have students in graduate schools. And and our faculty, one of our faculty in particular leads workshops for students who are thinking about applying to graduate school. So our faculty ask students what they want to do, and help them start thinking about opportunities and good professional development opportunities, even before they graduate.

Oh, I think anyone that might be listening or might be interested in geology, ends up declaring it might feel like some of the anxiety be lifted, just hearing that answer. It's like, okay, okay. It's not just all on me, like I will have his help. There will be people asking me questions, and you know, whatever I'm thinking about doing they're going to help maneuver me where I need might need to go.

Absolutely. It's something where we're really committed to So yeah, we're excited about that. We're excited to see our our alums succeed and be be the students who are guiding future students to their own career path. So it's very, it's a community effort.

Yes, absolutely. And let's say student is interested in geology just has, hasn't it or is leaning towards, you know, geology, but maybe hasn't made that final confirmation, like I'm going to declare it, but maybe they're unsure about the concentration, what they should choose, like, Do you have any suggestions for this? Student Is there like an introductory courses do you think could take?

Absolutely. So our classic course, and many of us remember our first course in introductory geology, it's geology 1000. And it is an introduction to everything that geologists study about the earth, from the materials we walk on every day, you know, what kinds of rocks and minerals are those two natural hazards, you know, volcanoes, earthquakes, to groundwater to climate change. So, and we offer a lot of sections of geology 1000. And so even though it may feel like a big lecture hall, they can always reach out to that faculty member reach out to me, and I can put them in touch with that faculty member. We are weird, our geology 1000 curriculum is, is a fantastic survey of the types of topics that geologists study. And we've got, we have fantastic people in our 1000, geology 1000 class teaching our geology 1000 classes. And so that really is a great opportunity, it seems so you know, fundamental, but truly the 1000 classes are, they'll be offered a variety of times, it's a great way for a student to think about it. The other thing that would also be I would also recommend for a smaller kind of student faculty ratio, more hands on opportunities would be our geology 1000 lab, you don't have to take it with geology 1000, you can take it on its own. And that's an opportunity, you're in a smaller group of students, and you're actually working with math samples, you know, different demonstrations of the concept sort of in, you know, in tangible, more tangible ways. So, the geology 1000 lab would also be a great opportunity for students to, you know, you can, you can be getting a general education requirement, but also there's going to be for me, and that would be in a slightly smaller setting for students who are interested in making perhaps more of a closer connection with a faculty member. It's also on the hallway where our department is, and so they can always stick their head in my office and say, Hello, I'm thinking about geology, I'm taking geology 1000 lab, it's a great fit, it's a great way, and then you can check a general education box, if students decide maybe it's not quite right for them. But that would those two would be the classic courses that we offer frequently, that are great for students who are thinking about geology.

But if you want to add anything else, like generally speaking, you know, what are students learning? You know, in some of these classes, I know for like geology, of course, they'll have the geology classes that they're doing. But then also the major also involves need to have like math, chemistry, possibly physics.

Yeah, so we, the first thing we want students to do is just to be able to, to walk out into the world and have that background and geological sciences that allows them to see it in new ways. Everything from what what are the forces that built those mountains? Or, you know, what is? What has been the geologic history in this area? And thinking about, you know, how do different sciences play into perhaps the types of, you know, minerals we find here, or the availability of water resources over there. So first and foremost, we want students to be thinking like geologists, and we want them exposed to a lot of concepts that help them sort of understand the Earth processes around them. But the second thing that we really sort of focused on a student's understanding the process of scientific research, you know, science impacts our daily lives, whether we, you know, whether we fully appreciate it or not, there's so many things that are the outcome of scientific research. So we want students to, to understand that process, and then to engage in it themselves, so to collect their own geologic data, do their own interpretations of something that they learned about, you know, to really practice thinking bringing their own perspective to something and interpreting things based on what they've learned. So that research piece is really critical. We also want students exposed to the tools that geologists use. So that could be how do we you know, map a cave, what kinds of sword we have different scanners students can use to map a cave or an underground mine? You know, we use again, it's interdisciplinary. So we use things students might associate with other disciplines, like we use microscopes, and let's just use microscopes. We, we use all different kinds of mapping technology we use, we have a whole what we call affectionately the rock shed, which is full of a lot of equipment that's sort of typical for a geologist to use. And so we also want students to so there's that kind of just the geologic knowledge, the understanding, to understand scientific research, but also to have hands on experience with the types of equipment that they will use in their field after graduation. And so a lot of our lot of times students attending classes actually physically working with things and developing skills that will serve them after they graduate.

And on the flip side, do you feel that there are any misconceptions that people might have about geology?

I think first you know, people just assume oh, it's just about rocks. And it is about rocks plus so much more. So yes, of course in geology 1000. In geology, 1000 labs, we think of rocks as being the, what the entire Earth is made of. And so you know, the there is that rocks and minerals aspect, but then there's also like, well, what happens to them? When tectonic plates are pushing together? What happens to those rocks when water is flowing through them or over them? How can we use earth materials to generate electricity to preserve water? And so we think about it as, as yes, those earth materials, you know, it's sort of thinking about rocks and minerals very broadly, but then how do we interact with them? What are the forces acting on them? What are the resources potentially, we can glean from them. So it's really I would say about sort of the broader study of the earth and one aspect of that are focusing on those earth materials. But there's so many other things that our students engage with, as they work through our major or even just through geology 1000, they would see like, oh, it's about so much more.

And you've talked about, you know, how much faculty are available to students and helping out students? And definitely we can see faculty as a resource to students. But does your department offer any other resources to your geology students?

Absolutely. One of my favorite things is that every other Thursday during university hour, we have geology drop in to their snacks and there's just there are faculty present their students present. So you can come in, you can ask questions about advising, if you're considering the major, you could just come in and see what people are talking about people are working on, we play games, we give very informal presentations about different things. So we like to bring people together. And sometimes people, our majors arrive, but they bring their friend who might be from another major. And so we have regular gatherings for students who are interested or who are just beginning to make connections with other students. We also provide workshops for things like if you're going to consider in graduate school, for example, we offer different sort of co curricular activities for students to start to think about some of those more professional development questions. We have a geology club that's just getting up and running for the year, but an opportunity for students to get leadership positions or participate in extracurricular trips. And we have students who work as TAs or who work as supplemental instructors as well. So we have students involved in teaching and helping students who are just beginning in the major. So it's, again, a very close knit supportive major. And, one, we also have a lounge dedicated to students where students, their computers, they can work on students can meet in, in for group work, for example. So students have access to the direction they have access to other research facilities. So they really do become a part of our community here. And we we do everything we can to make sure that our students have the support they need to succeed. Yeah, sounds

like it. And last question would be like, if a student does have a question, a follow up, they're just interested wants more information? What's the best way for them to reach your department, like through website, email?

Yeah, they're welcome, of course, go on to the website. But honestly, I would just send me an email. My email is claire.todd@csusb.edu. And I'm happy to meet I love having students come into my office and even even if you you know, kind of on the fence, or you've decided, oh, maybe it's not geology come in anyway, and say hello. So I think sending me an email stopping by my office, which is on the first four Biological Sciences. If they're in an introductory geology class as just a general education course, I strongly recommend reaching out to that faculty member at the end of class. That's how a lot of our students get involved in our our major, and of course, the our website as well. So just be proactive about that. We're, we're a really friendly group to geologists and and even to those who decide maybe geology is not for them. And so we can be a support network, no matter what. So emails, great, the websites great or just just stopping by.

lot of great useful information on this episode. Dr. Todd, thank you so much for being a guest.

Oh, thank you so much, Matt. This was a pleasure. I look forward to meeting future geology majors.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai