Transitioning from laboratory nano-toxcitity to field geology: strange, normal, or spectacular?
Growing up the mental image I had of geology was old white people (mostly men) walking around, picking up, licking, and collecting rocks AND the people digging up bones in the desert. Even having grown up in Alaska, this was my perception and probably is still some people’s view of geology today. I wanted to work more with the environment, however, at the time I did not see the field of geology getting me where I wanted to go, therefore, I went into chemistry with the plan of pursuing a career in environmental chemistry.
I majored in chemistry at a small-private liberal arts university in Minnesota and did my undergraduate research in the field of nano-toxicology, focusing on mechanistic interactions (detailed under Research). I was sun-deprived three summers in a row to conduct my research, as many scientists do. My love of research solidified my desire to pursue a graduate degree, so I began looking at graduate programs. I looked into nanomaterial, soil science, and environmental chemistry programs but found nothing that sparked my intrigue. I had decided to take a year off to have more time to find a program that fit my interests until my undergraduate research advisor sent me a few forwarded emails about two sub-fields within geology, geochemistry and geobiology.
As I read about these fields, I realized that geology reached far beyond my initial conceptions. I applied and got accepted into my current program at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. Since beginning my program, I have left the laboratory and conducted two field seasons in Yellowstone National Park. Each day in the field I learned from phenomenal scientists. Outside of the field, I continue to learn in the laboratory as I process samples and data and strive to delve deeper into my current project.
All in all, I would say that my transition into the sub-fields of geology has been a fulfilling experience, providing me with new opportunities to expand my knowledge and skill sets.
Joshua E. Kuether