Written by Olivia Sue, BS Geology '17
HEMET – College students changing their major one, two or three times is not an uncommon occurrence. For one student in particular, Alexis Lopez ('15), a recent Pacific graduate, changed her major three different times; only to find, in her last semester of her final year at Pacific, her true passion in an introductory Geology class.
Entering as a Political Science major, Alexis soon discovered dwindling interest in a career in politics. “I soon moved on to the Art History major, a class I really enjoyed in high school and college but realized it was more of a hobby.” Alexis had always wanted to travel abroad and heard that, as a Global Studies major, studying abroad for a year was one of the core requirements. Alexis switched over and didn’t look back.
As a student at Pacific, one semester of a lab science is required. “I had kind of been dreading completing my requirement and put it off until my last semester. While I really enjoyed my science classes in high school, I was intimidated by the idea of taking college level science classes and, in all honesty, I never saw myself as a scientist.” Alexis waited until her last semester to take her science course and many of her friends had recommended Geology of California (GEOS 61). Like so many of us in the department who discovered geology almost by accident, everything became clear on the 4-day field trip. “The hands on experience is such a vital part of geology and that’s something that I really love,” remembers Alexis. It was then that Alexis decided to stay at Pacific for an extra year to earn a minor in Geology.
During that fifth year, not only did she try to get as many geology classes as she could under her belt, she also jumped right into undergraduate research. She took on a project working with Dr. Burmeister on deformed rocks from western Ireland, a project she has continued to work on after graduation. She will be presenting some of her results at the national meeting of the Geological Society of America in Baltimore this fall.
This past summer, Alexis continued to boldly embrace challenges by attending the Wasatch-Uinta field camp, an intensive field-based, six-week capstone course for geoscience students. “It’s pretty much like having a job. You go out into the field for eight hours and then you come back and work 6 more hours but there is nothing more rewarding than filling out your map and handing in your project. Field camp just really helps you to develop your confidence in your geologic prowess.”
After field camp, Alexis was a field assistant for Allie Macho, a graduate student in Economic Geology at the University of Arizona, who was collecting samples and completing field work for her thesis in Nevada. “I was a little nervous about being in the field for four weeks right after six weeks of field camp.” Alexis ended up learning a lot about what it’s like to be a graduate student and running their own field research in preparation for producing a thesis. She also had a really great time and is really excited for her own project as a master’s student.
These are just some of the opportunities and experiences that helped Alexis develop a keen interest in Economic Geology. She finds ore deposits fascinating because to study them, you need to use knowledge from every field of geology. This was not the route that she thought she would be going in, but remains curious about the exploration process.
Political Science to Geology may not be the smoothest of transitions. Like so many of us, the decision to study geology was not smooth but it was an easy decision to make. It was the right decision. Alexis has shown us that this decision is wise and can be fruitful. College is meant for discovery but finding what you love in a place that is so quick to change can be difficult. Alexis is proof that we can find what we’re passionate about and that we can love what we do.