Friday, February 27, 2009


I'm having a problem. Every time I take a new class, I get entirely engrossed in the subject and decide that I want to devote my life to studying it. Except for the subject that is my current major.

So, right now....geology is neat. And I have a special place in my heart for paleontology. But studying hominid evolution....even more neat. And studying evolution and ecology? Awesome.

I can't seem to stick with one thing...every semester I freak out and change my major and it's getting really close to being a problem, since sooner or later, I won't be taking intro courses and what classes I do take will start counting toward a specific area of study.

That, and I have this "should I go to school in the fall" dilemma. That was the plan...until I found out that I need another CT scan next winter and possibly surgery on my freaking brain (which isn't such a big deal, really, but I bet it will be $$$). So, quitting my job and giving up my amazing health care in exchange for student health care seems silly - especially since there's a chance that they could label my head problem a "pre-existing condition."

If I work another year, I'll be four courses closer to a degree and will have time to save up more money for school. But what if next year they tell me I need a CT scan in another year...and maybe surgery in another year?

J is probably looking at 3 years of school after this one, so it makes sense to work another year if that's the case.

GAH! Can someone else figure this out for me, because the amount of time I spend worrying about it is getting ridiculous.


Jerry D. Harris said...

Well...the financial and insurance concerns are definitely valid ones, but I can't address those very well. Addressing the scholastic issues is a bit easier: it's very easy to forget that, as an undergraduate, your purpose isn't really to get yourself set up for your life's career and pursuits! Instead, it's to get a broad enough exposure to as many different things as possible so that you (a) have a good basis for deciding what it is you want to do, and (though perhaps less importantly in this parituclar instance) (b) to become a broad, well-rounded person in terms of your understanding of how the world works. In the sense that you've been discovering that lots of things pique your interest, that's not a bad thing, evne if it is causing you consternation at the moment...but it's in graduate school that you're supposed to narrow your focus onto some set of concepts and knowledge, not as an undergrad. For now, drink it all in -- the deciding will come a bit later, when you start thinking about where you want to go to grad school.

The things you're expressing interests in are not mutually exclusive -- paleontology, hominid evolution, and ecology are all facets of the biogeosciences. You don't necessarily have to pick and choose one and neglect the others. In fact, you could carve quite an interesting niche for yourself (again, starting in grad school, though if you find avenues as an undergrad, by no means ignore them!) by combining the interests. For example, not a lot of paleontologists (well, vertebrate paleontologists, at any rate) are terribly well-versed in the nuances of evolution and ecology as they are studied by researchers working with living organisms and ecosystems. As a result, there's not a lot of crossover between the two -- some, yes, but not a lot. If you have a good understanding of both worlds, then you might have very little competition in applying the modern-world stuff to the fossil record, and you might make some real breakthroughs in terms of our understandings of some concepts. Analogously, think of people like Mary Schweitzer -- she's got a virtual monopoly on applying the kinds of modern molecular biological techniques to the fossil record, and look at all the cool stuff she's managed to do! Basically, she's combined two aspects of biogeoscience that most people would view as disparate and, well, nonhybridizable (if that's a word), so until she came along, there were people working on biomarkers of various organic compounds and there were people working on fossils, but she was basically the first to make combining the two a career path. The trick, I think, is to not view each of your classes as representing something singular and unrelated to all your others (although they certainly can be!), but instead view them all as parts of a larger whole, as facets of one larger picture. Then you might be able to start seeing how they intertwine and complement one another...even if few have made them do so yet. Then, come time to apply to grad school, you can really seek out either whatever advisors are doing work along those lines, or schools that have strengths in both in which to start working.

Dunno if that made any kind of sense, but...

Jeffrey W. Martz, PhD said...

There is certainly nothing wrong with being well-rounded if you are going to do something like VP, which draws information from a wide variety of biological and geological sources. My recommendation to any undergraduate interested in doing VP is to double major in Biology (or Zoology) and Geology. I almost got two batchelors. The one I got was in Zoology, but I ended up taking most of the Geology courses and being much more strongly involved in the Geology department, and was a semester away from a second degree by the time I had to graduate. It would give you more options for graduate schools, as most paleo programs affiliated with Geology rather than Biology programs. This is how it worked out for me; I got my Master's and PhD in Geosciences. I'm sure everything will work out with your brain, though you would not want me offering you financial advice of any kind.

TyMandasMom said...

I will leave the educational advise to those who know more about what you are studying :)

I will simply say what I have said before about the aneurysms. I suspect now that the docs know they are there, they will monitor the size annually to keep an eye on what is going on inside that beautiful brain of yours. If it were me, I would err on the side of caution. I would want to make sure I had good health insurance to cover the cost of scans and any corrective procedures that may be needed. Brain surgery is very expensive. But that is what I would do. And I would let the University pay for as many classes as possible. But again, that is what "old, caustious, me" would do.

I am sure you will make the right decision for you.