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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Grad school top in nation

The U.S. News and World Report ranked the UA’s geology program top among earth science graduate schools in the country.

The department, with 28 faculty members, 80 graduate students and 150 undergraduate majors, tied with the University of Michigan for the number one spot.

“”We have good people,”” said Karl Flessa, head of the geosciences department. “”When you have good people, you have a good reputation.””

Flessa accounts the jump to getting the UA’s name out into the marketplace with those “”good people.”” These people include department graduates and undergraduates who are going into academic or industry positions and representing the program well. Faculty like George Gehrels and Paul Kapp, who both earned their undergraduate degrees from the UA, show the strength of the program and the fact that “”no one gets lost”” there.

“”They are good people, so we try to hire them back if they are available,”” Flessa said.

Flessa said the department has been working on being number one for 30 years.

“”You can’t stand still in this business,”” he said. “”You’ll run faster and faster to stay in the same place.””

Advanced geology students take two years of upper level classes, then move to two to three years of applications, studies and writing up the results.

Susan Beck, geosciences professor and former department head, said the evolution of the program has boosted the already interdisciplinary nature of the department since its move into the Earth and Environmental Sciences section of campus.

There are three things that make the department great, according to Beck.

“”One thing is the high quality faculty that can keep up with the field very well,”” she said. “”The second part is that we are very interdisciplinary, very collaborative and we work together. The third part is the graduate program. We tailor it to their needs and their interests.””

Another factor is the faculty’s continued work on climate change, a topic that continues to receive local and national attention. Paul Kapp, for example, was recently featured nationally on MSNBC for research about wind and its effect on mountain peaks.

“”One of the things that our department does that’s really amazing is the sheer amount of science that goes on. They are world class, pretty much in every part of geosciences,”” said Jessica Kapp, Paul Kapp’s wife and UA geosciences professor. “”That makes graduate school really attractive to graduate students.””

Faculty members tend to bring in a lot of research money and are well funded, another attraction for graduate students, Jessica Kapp said.

“”The amount of support and how collegial it is,”” she said. “”There’s not competition or gossiping or backstabbing. It’s all really collaborative. When I went to graduate school, it wasn’t like that. We’re still very rigorous and expect a lot of our students, but the support is there. It’s like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else.””

The vision of “”actually having to do science”” in a strong graduate program might be intimidating, but the strength of the UA’s program makes that transition easier, she said.

Flessa said it is important for a top-10 geology program like the UA’s that graduate students must become knowledge producers rather than knowledge consumers like many are during undergraduate study.

“”You can’t have a top graduate program without some good instruction and teaching,”” Beck said, “”and it’s not just in the classroom, it’s out in the field. It’s in formal and informal settings.””



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