When I was in the seventh grade, I thought I had it all figured out…
I was going to be a geologist!
And that was that, no question about it. Most of my friends around this time talked about marine biology, somehow that was the trendy dream, but no thanks, not for me. All I wanted to do was talk about rocks, look at rocks, buy rocks, even have rock-themed parties (seriously, my mom found a place where you could pay to dig up hand samples in a sand pit, needless to say, I visited this place several times).
When it came time for college applications, most people grew out of their seventh-grade aspirations, but not me. Okay sidebar: technically in high school, I shifted slightly, I took physics and found out “geophysics” was something you could actually study. My friends joked that my major was going to be “taking photos of rocks,” and they weren’t completely wrong. First day of Geology 101 at UConn, our professor asked why we were taking the class, and I stood up first in a class of 150 and said,
I want to be a geophysicist and study seismic waves!
Apparently, that proclamation was quite memorable and created my reputation as “that earthquake girl,” and you know what, I didn’t hate it one bit. I quickly learned that speaking up about what I wanted would help me get to new places and being “that earthquake girl,” got me an internship at the nearby U.S. Geological Survey office and an offer for graduate study in geophysics through the engineering department. The downside of all this was that my “offer” didn’t include anything about a paid assistantship.
Pro tip: paying for your graduate degree is a terrible idea. I like to think I’m fairly detail-oriented, but I did not pay attention to how much in student loans I was actually taking out.
On the flipside: the work I did during my MS degree and the relationship I built with the USGS secured me my fully-funded Ph.D. program with one of the leading near-surface seismic groups in the country, perhaps world-renown. Pardon my (somewhat) humblebrag here, but I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been given during my doctoral program. I mentioned earlier that speaking up for what you want will get you places, and it’s been absolutely true for me — if you’re thinking that this is how I earned the title, “seismic princess,” the answer is, I’m not entirely sure. It came about during a series of field excursions in fire retardant suits during the most disgusting Mississippi summer months. A tiara was taped to my hard hat and well if the suit fits…
In any case, something I think other graduate students in my cohort may not have realized was that you need to ask questions. If you don’t ask, then how is your advisor supposed to know what your thinking? I recognize that there are people out there who do make requests but get turned down. But there are advisors out there who will say yes and fortunately mine is one of them.
Now that’s not to say that I get everything I want. Graduate school is still grueling, writing is awful and like others, I’ve had a good amount of research gone wrong, plenty of field work failures, and more writer’s block and lack of motivation than I would like to admit. I wish the whole “suffering through graduate school is all part of the game,” mentality didn’t exist, but it does and some do worse than others. I am (theoretically) in my last year and still learning how to navigate out of these recurring episodes of Imposter Syndrome. But then I go for a run and remember that despite it all, tomorrow is another day closer to being a Geophysicist Ph.D.!
Your lady in geoscience,
seismicprincess, signing off.