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Alumni Stories

  • Research Assistant


    Master of Science, Applied Geosciences, '08; Widener University, '05

    “While attending Penn I met many impressive students and professors from all over the world. Everyone seemed to come from a unique background. I was in classes with full-time and part-time students, working professionals in my field and other people changing majors/careers. I feel like I got the most out of each and every class that I took. The professors provided me with individualized attention and help whenever I needed it. They dedicate themselves to making sure that the students learn and succeed in their classes. Many shared their own professional experiences in the classroom that helped to prepare me for the professional world. I had the opportunity to attend lectures with guest speakers and go on field trips, including a joint trip with Princeton University to the Catskills in New York. All of my coursework and the professors who taught me at Penn have further enhanced my interest in the geosciences and provided me with a solid foundation upon which to build my future career and to successfully carry out the research for my final project.

    “My interest in geomorphology is what inspired me to do my final project. After doing an independent study in geomorphology, I became interested in how surface processes shape planetary landscapes. I chose to pursue my final project with NASA because of my interest in the various surface processes on Mars and how they shaped the landscape over time; in particular, its fluvial history. Having the opportunity to do my final project at NASA was a new and exciting experience for me. I met other visiting students from all over the country. It is an experience that I will never forget.

    “My final project was done in conjunction with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. I traveled to NASA Goddard starting in August 2008 through December 2008 for one to two days per week to work with a researcher who became my mentor on this project. The purpose of this project was to investigate the source of water that carved an outflow channel called 'Reull Vallis' located in the eastern Hellas region of Mars. The project involved making volumetric measurements of the main canyon of the channel and its potential source areas and comparing the results to investigate the contributions of water to the main canyon. This then allowed me to evaluate the fluvial and erosional history of Reull Vallis to better understand how it was formed. I also looked at Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) daytime IR and VIS images from Arizona State University to search for evidence of other channels contributing water to Reull Vallis. I calculated the discharges through different parts of the Reull Vallis fluvial system, and I conducted background research into the geological history of Reull Vallis and the eastern Hellas region.

    “Currently I am working as a Research Assistant on a contract position at the New Jersey Geological Survey. I am assisting with a project that is funded on a research grant to characterize carbon capture and sequestration in the New Jersey coastal plain.”

  • Hydrologist, USGS


    Master of Science, Applied Geosciences, '09; Rutgers University, '03

    “The Penn MSAG program has allowed me to better develop my education while remaining in my career as a hydrologist at the US Geological Survey (USGS). The flexible class schedule and course options were great for me because as my career developed and new projects came along, I was able to tailor my coursework to meet these needs. I was very appreciative that my professors had experience in applied fields, which was invaluable to me as a working student. My professors were also able to blend application and theory so that I could use what I learned for research at work but still expand my horizons and learn how to better question, interpret and analyze geoscientific data for any new project. I also enjoyed getting to know fellow students in the program, many with a similar career/education scenario like mine.

    “Midway through the year I was transferred to the USGS office in Oklahoma City, Okla. For many students, this change would have caused a major disruption. However, my advisor and professors were able to accommodate me and I was able to finish Penn from a remote location without sacrificing the quality of my education. I was also able to incorporate research at work into my capstone project, which allowed me greater flexibility and helped advance my knowledge of geoscientific features unique to Oklahoma. This has greatly helped me advance in my career.”

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