Professor of Geology

Ivan Colburn

Tell us about your work---what do you do? We have a variety of geology classes that we teach in our program. We teach everything from the origin of the earth to finding and producing natural resources . We also try to provide training for teachers to teach the earth sciences in school. We talk to the public about unusual geological formations in different areas, like the Grand Canyon. What skills are needed? One of the most important skills is writing and communication in general. You also need a basic science background including math , physics , chemistry and, of course, geology. What was your major? Geology How did you get started in your career? I grew up in Southern California and enjoyed the outdoors. I spent a lot of time up in the mountains and down on the coast in my youth. My dad was an outdoorsman and educator, I learned a lot from him. What experience do you need in this job? In teaching, it's helpful if you had some practical experience. I was hired in the private sector to look for oil, and some our faculty have worked in a variety of non-teaching positions and that's helpful. On the other hand, we have lots of good teachers that haven't had practical experience. Describe your "typical" workday: Usually my day starts the night before preparing materials for the next day's class. When not class, I am usually meeting with students or preparing material. I might have two classes per day or one class per day and one lab. What we really try to do is get our students out in field to look at geological features and get experience in the real realm. What is the hardest aspect of your job? I would have to say interpersonal relations . You have to have the ability to work with a whole variety of people. Students come from all different backgrounds and experiences, connecting with them can be a challenge. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The satisfaction you get when a student says, "Gee, I learned a lot in your class!" What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? It almost comes as a by-product of being a student to carry on and become a teacher. As far as becoming a professional geologist, it comes down to your personal interest. If you like outdoors, if you like unraveling geological puzzles, you would probably be well suited to this field. If you prefer working in an office, you may be happier in some other career.
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