Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Plan...

I met with an advisor today and we made a plan for the rest of my education. I have a few concerns, which I hope to get some feedback on. Right off the bat: will having a BA instead of a BS keep you from getting into graduate school (studying a science)?

I changed my major from Geology (B.S.) to Zoology (B.A.). Instead of 3-4 years, I can finish in two years (not counting next year, which I'll be spending taking free classes). Here's a breakdown of the next few years:

Fall 2008: Work full time while taking Introductory Biology (first half) and Introductory Geology (Earth Systems Science).

Spring 2009: Work full time while taking Introductory Biology (second half) and Statistical Methods

Fall 2009: Quit job. Ecology and Evolution, Organic Chem (first half), and Field Geology. (this will be 12 credits...i.e. full time)

Spring 2010: Genetics, Organic Chem (second half), Molecular and Cell Biology and Earth, Life, and Environments Through Time. (15 credits total)

Fall 2010: Take Population Genetics, Evolution, Stratigraphy and Sedimentary Petrology and Mammalogy. (15 credits total)

Spring 2011: Take Advanced Genetics Lab (or Speciation and Phylogeny if it's offered), Earth Materials, Developmental Biology and Structural Geology. (12-14 credits)

So here's my question: If you were in charge of deciding whether or not to let me into grad school for paleontology or something related to it, would this be a nice undergrad course load? Keep in mind a few things: I plan on doing undergrad research, I plan on doing a paleo-related field camp and I'm a good student (and friendly and well-rounded to boot).

2 comments:

Jerry D. Harris said...

will having a BA instead of a BS keep you from getting into graduate school (studying a science)?

No, not in any case I've ever discovered (including me!).

If you were in charge of deciding whether or not to let me into grad school for paleontology or something related to it, would this be a nice undergrad course load?

I think this is a terrific course load -- it includes a lot of stuff I never took (mostly the bio-oriented stuff)! It should get you into a position where you will be well-suited to tackling a really wide swath of paleontological problems, and better yet will set you up to be able to examine paleontological issues from many perspectives at once, combining geological and biological data sets and perspectives (which is what I try and do, and would encourage all my students to do if I ever had any...!). Despite the importance of both in paleo, this is really rather an uncommon ability even today in paleo, so you'll be a rare commodity that way, and thus very marketable.

The only potential problem is that there are few advisors in grad school quite this diverse. You might end up with an advisor that pushes you more toward either the biological or the geological as a focus for at least your thesis and/or dissertation. Hopefully you'd find someone broad enough in scope, or at least broad minded enough, to encourage you to build on this transdisciplinary background and apply it, but it's not a given, so you may end up having to keep up on the "other half" independently. But that's not a huge problem, really -- just something to anticipate.

Quick thought/question: does UV have anything like an "integrated studies" degree? We just introduced one here -- it's basically a customizeable degree program that combines two subject areas. One could do, for example, biology + education, or biology + geology (if we had geology), or even biology + English if you wanted. In this program, one doesn't take all the classes for either "half" that you would if you were a strict major in one specialty (i.e., you wouldn't take all the biology courses that a straight biology major would) but allows you to take the "best" of both worlds, as it were. Programs like this seem to be becoming more common, and sounds like you'd be perfectly suited to some sort of biology + geology program if UV has one! I'm not aware of anyone currently in paleo that has (or is working on) such an integrated degree, but I know few undergrads. Might be much more common in the future!

Laelaps said...

I agree with Jerry; have a look through your course catalog and see if there's any way you can "design your own major" or do an integrated major that would benefit you most. I wish I had known about that earlier at my own school.

Plus, if the school offers it, you might want to take a human osteology class. Some anatomy will differ, of course, but it can be helpful.

Anyway, Jerry would know more than I would, but it looks like you've got things figured out pretty well.