I am a paleontologist currently working on my Ph. D. in Integrated Biosciences at The University of Akron. I work on fossil color, including the preservation of color-producing structures, evolutionary and functional changes of these structures over time and what color can reveal about potential behaviors of extinct organisms.
Choosing Mount Union
I chose Mount Union because it was the only university that I visited at which I felt at home. I liked the smaller class sizes, the gorgeous campus, and especially Bracy Hall, but mostly I was drawn to the professors I met at an open house. Dr. Canfield-Simbro drew me into the First Year in Honors program; Bob Buganski encouraged me to consider art as a second major rather than just a minor; and Dr. Gray found out that I was interested in paleontology and pulled out a cast of a Herrerasaurus skull to show me. I felt incredibly welcome that day, and it made me realize that Mount was where I wanted to spend my undergraduate career.
I was fortunate enough to have three outstanding professors: Lee Gray, Mark McNaught and Joel Collins. All three of these professors kept me interested in and enthusiastic about their respective fields: Dr. Gray and Dr. McNaught in geology and Joel in art. Dr. Gray is the “soft-rock” professor in the Geology Department. He teaches Sedimentology and Statigraphy, Paleontology, Historical Geology and related classes. He was always incredibly animated and enthusiastic when he taught, keeping even those students who thought they didn’t care about geology interested. Dr. Gray also mentored me through my independent study and, to this day, still sends me information about various awards and grants related to my field. Dr. McNaught is the “hard-rock” professor who teaches classes such as Structural Geology, Mineralogy and Petrology. He served as my major advisor and helped me enjoy geology classes in which I was less interested. He really made an effort to help me understand the material, especially basic crystallography, and I have since been able to help others understand. Joel Collins is the drawing professor in the Art Department who helped me through my Art Senior Culminating Experience. While the other art professors did help shape me into a better artist, Joel helped me take my skill above and beyond anything I imagined. He was also never afraid to criticize, and his criticisms always made me want to work harder and create better work. I not only still use the skill set he gave me to further improve my artwork, but also in other aspects of my life, such as writing and seeing amazing details in the fossils with which I work.
Real-World Experience Abroad
In 2009, Dr. Gray and Dr. McNaught suggested I look into the Keck Geology Consortium for summer research experience. The Keck Geology Consortium is a group of colleges and universities that host geology-related summer field opportunities for undergraduate students. I applied and was granted the wonderful opportunity to travel to Shine Jinst, Mongolia to study Devonian fossils in the Gobi Desert. I spend a month in Mongolia collecting rock and fossil samples and then continued the project throughout my senior year at Mount with Dr. Gray’s help. This project culminated in a presentation of my research at the Keck Geology Symposium in Houston, Texas. I also interned in the paleontology department at the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum in Bowman, North Dakota for two summers.
Student Involvement on Campus
I was involved in several different organizations at Mount Union. I served as president of Geology Club, secretary of CHOICES and was also a member of the Kappa Pi Honors Art Fraternity, Raider Programming Board, Gay-Straight Alliance, Association of International Students and Anime Club. I also worked in the Geology and Biology departments and served as a learning assistant for Physical Geology.
Preparation for a Career
My Mount Union education enhanced my critical and creative thinking skills, gave me a background in geology and paleontology that I have further expanded since graduation, qualified me for wonderful field experience and made me a better, more critical artist. It gave me the basic toolset I needed to continue my education at OSU and Akron.
At the moment, my one goal is to graduate with my Ph. D. in Integrated Biosciences with a decent number of publications under my belt. That said, the number one goal that I would like to accomplish in life is sparking interest in the sciences in young women, especially paleontology and geology. When I was younger, I was occasionally discouraged from my dream of becoming a paleontologist because it was a “field for men.” However, I looked up to and have since met many great women in paleontology. They inspired and continue to inspire me to keep going in the field. I would be honored to be one of those women for future generations of potential paleontologists.