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Student Impressions of the Undergraduate Program



Dan Zablotney, WCAS '05: “The Geology Department at Northwestern is a small, close-knit community. It is obvious that the professors love what they're doing, and their passion for their work results in enthusiastic and exciting teaching. Additionally, because the department is small, I have really gotten to know the professors, and can feel their genuine concern for my academic success.”

Students examine eolian processes at Great Sand Dunes  

National Monument, Colorado, Septemeber 1998 Justin Sweet, WCAS '04: “I think what I enjoyed most about the undergraduate geology program was the closeness and superb teaching ability of the faculty and teaching assistants. During my time with the department, I enjoyed classes with several highly enthusiastic professors who really went out of their way to make the subject matter even more accessible. Additionally, the graduate students who served as teaching assistants for my courses were spectacular. Aside from helping me out with understanding the material, several of my TAs became good friends and helpful advisors regarding my own plans for graduate school. The small size of the department, and the fact that it is separated from the rest of the sciences housed up at Tech, allowed for a family-like closeness to develop amongst the professors, grad students, and undergrads, which is something I shall miss after graduating.”

Shawn Stevens, WCAS '03: “I found the geology department to be both rigorous and intimate. Oftentimes I would have classes of 5 to 15 graduate and undergraduate students. With such a small department and classes, it was very easy to approach the professors and grad students. This intimacy made the classes more enjoyable—several departmental courses ranked among my favorites at Northwestern--and provided opportunities to pursue independent research. My first research project on T Waves in the southeast Pacific, for instance, grew out of a course taught by Professor Okal. I loved the course and it convinced me to major in the Geological Sciences. As it turned out, though, I enjoyed the chance to perform original research even more than taking courses.”

Petra Pancoskova, WCAS '02: "As a triple major in Geology, the Integrated Science Program, and Environmental Sciences I had many interactions with faculty from various departments. The faculty at the Geology department was the most enthusiastic about helping me become involved in research projects and challenging me intellectually. I've especially enjoyed the diversity of the work I've been involved in. In my four years, I have worked on three different projects in completely different areas of geoscience and this has given me the opportunity to really hone my interests and become a better scientist."

Brett Wilcox, WCAS '02: “The best thing about the geology department at Northwestern is the opportunity to do original research. I was able to pick a subject that interested me and choose my own course of action. My advisor helped me turn what started out as a summer project into an honors thesis, which was eventually submitted for publication. By the time I got to grad school I had already acquired many of the research skills that I now use every day.”

Marie Cahill, WCAS '99 : "Being a member of the Geology department has been a wonderful experience. The size of the department allows for close contact with both the faculty and the graduate students. The professors have been available whenever I have wanted to talk to them. My relations with the graduate students have been invaluable; as a result, I have pretty clear idea about what I would want from a graduate program. I went on two field trips with the department. The trip to Baraboo peaked my interest in geology; it was the first time I was able to look at rocks in a natural setting and understand what was going on. This made me want to go on the field trip to Colorado devoted to the Field Problems in Sedimentary Geology. That was a great bonding experience as well as being very educational. Applying our book-knowledge was difficult, but satisfying."

Kathleen Carrigan, WCAS '99 : "Throughout my involvement with the department, I have continued to be impressed by the dedication of the faculty to teaching and their readily apparent enthusiasm for the research in which they are engaged. The courses which I have taken have challenged me and provided me with a solid background in sedimentary geology. However, I think that an even better opportunity for learning what the geological sciences are all about can be found in doing undergraduate research."

Tran Huynh, WCAS '99 : "I love the sciences - I always have. However, it was not until I discovered the geology department here on campus that I became truly passionate about the natural sciences. Studying geology here at NU has enabled me to explore the world with my eyes, while at the same time incorporating concepts I have learned in other fields like biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, history, and philosophy. We have taken field trips from which I have acquired a greater appreciation for the outside world. Furthermore, in the department the opportunity to pursue independent research with a caring advisor is always available."

Amy Langenhorst, WCAS '99 : "I feel at home in the geology department at Northwestern. I have been doing research in the department for three years, and I was able to go to the national American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco to present my research. It was a great experience in terms of preparation for my future and learning about current issues in geophysics. Most of the professors in the department know me, and their support is going to be one of my favorite memories from Northwestern. The amount of student-professor interaction is one of the advantages of the size of the department."

Emily Van Ark, WCAS '99 : "The geo department has provided some of my favorite courses at Northwestern. Concepts to which I was first exposed in my physics, math, and chemistry courses made much more sense to me when they were applied to geophysical problems. For example, I finally understood the Fourier transform when I wrote a computer program to apply it to seismograms in the geophysical data processing course. Likewise, the phase diagrams we studied in thermodynamics classes become much more interesting when applied to the inside of the Earth."

"My school year research into the mineralogy of subducting slabs and my summer research into the propagation of seismic waves in the Alaskan crust were both presented at professional conferences. My experiences at those conferences (which the Geology Department helped fund) allowed me a glimpse of all the exciting research going on in geophysical community beyond Northwestern."

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