Monday, August 18, 2008

Interdisciplinary studies

I am writing this using the persona of Short Geologist. However, this is not strictly true. I am indeed short. “Geologist”, however, may not be entirely accurate. I graduated from college with a degree in geology and I have worked in a few consulting companies in which part of my title was “geologist” something (staff geologist, peon geologist, geologist monkey). And because of these experiences, I look at the world with the eyes of a geologist. That is to say, I would like to figure out exactly what is happening in the subsurface, but I am comfortable with knowing that the real world never operates quite the way you expect it to. There are just too many variables.

My academic interest is in contamination, which can be looked at from all sorts of angles. When I started applying to grad schools, I did look at geology programs because that’s what I was familiar with. When I started visiting places and talking to people, I was quickly introduced to folks in the chemistry department, the biology department, the environmental engineering department, etc. And those people pointed me to other schools that didn’t have geology departments relevant to my interests, but still had folks working on problems I was interested in. My background in consulting meant that I could jump in and start working because I did have experience with all sorts of different disciplines.

I go to conferences with geologists, engineers, chemists, biologists, and computer scientists. There’s another person associated with my field site who is working on a similar problem, and what I am doing would probably be considered his department’s focus and vice versa. I had a fantastic conversation at a party a couple weeks ago (gotta love STEM schools!) with a computer science/math person whose work with the medical field intersects with some of my work. I’ve taken “methods” courses where it seems like every physical science and a couple different engineering disciplines have a representative.

So, I will always consider myself a geologist, but my master’s degree isn’t necessarily in geology.

1 comment:

EcoGeoFemme said...

Tell me about it. I feel like I don't really fit anywhere. Yet there are plenty of others in my sub-sub-field. I think they are seated in a wide range of departments. Looking at the bright side, we have more options, right?