July 6, 2023
If you are pursuing a degree in geoscience, where would you like to go after? Many students at the Jackson School of Geosciences (JSG) begin their studies under the impression that they are going into either academia or industry, but the job market is not so binary. Most students, at one point or another, consider different career paths from what they initially expressed interest or conviction in. In this post, we compiled profiles of notable alumni who have graduated in the last few years.
To unearth the career trajectories of JSG graduates, I started with Courtney Vletas, the Associate Director of Alumni Engagement. Every year, this office sends out a survey to recent post-graduates in an effort to consolidate the whereabouts of JSG alumni. In addition to my own connections, I fielded information from other alumni, current graduate students, and their advisors to compile a list of graduates that were representative of many of the career pathways that students end up pursuing. Below is the resulting list of alumni profiles, organized by the career sectors: Academia, Research Institutions & Government, Energy Industry, Technology, Non-Profit Organizations, Environmental Insurance, Healthcare & Business, and Geographical Information Systems. At the end, we also provide a suite of resources for job seekers to consider for their post-graduate journey.
PhD in Geological Sciences, 2022
Now a Postdoctoral scholar
Eirini Poulaki joined the Jackson School of Geosciences in 2016, she graduated with her MS in 2018 and her PhD in 2022. During her time at UT, she worked under the supervision of Dr. Stockli on understanding the tectonic and metamorphic evolution of Mediterranean subduction zones by using geochronology, metamorphic petrology, and structural geology. Eirini is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar in a joint appointment with the University of Washington and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her current research investigates the timing of deformation and fluid pulses within the seismogenic zone of subduction zones. Eirini chose a career in academia because of the avenue for creativity, her passion for research and curiosity, and the opportunity to train the next generation of geoscientists. She also hopes to contribute to community efforts towards making the geosciences a more diverse welcoming environment for everyone.
PhD in Geological Sciences, 2018
Now a Staff Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
At UT-Austin, Miguel applied geochemistry, petrology, and field geology to understand tectonic problems. During summers, Miguel interned at several oil and gas companies, worked in research labs, or completed field work to explore and compare roles in industry, government, and academia. After UT-Austin, Miguel ventured to Switzerland and completed a postdoc at ETH Zurich with the Structural Geology and Tectonics group (2019 – 2021). Since 2022, Miguel has been a Staff Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California. At LLNL, Miguel uses stable isotope geochemistry to address geologic problems and develops tools that can be used for geolocation of nuclear materials. Miguel has enjoyed the wealth of project opportunities and resources available at LLNL, colleagues, and the work-life balance associated with this role.
B.S. in Geophysics, 2016
Now a Geophysicist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Peter started his career at the University of Texas as a physics student before transferring to the JSG geophysics program. At JSG, he met an undergraduate advisor at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus where he began locating earthquake activity, assisting in seismology research, and installing seismometers around central Texas. After graduation, he moved to Oklahoma to work at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, where he was a seismic analyst. In 2018, he took a job in Hawaii as a geophysicist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. In this role he helps monitor and assess volcanic activity and potential hazards, forecast possible future eruptive activity, and assist in maintaining the network of seismic stations around the island.
PhD in Geological Sciences, 2022
Now a Geologist at OVINTIV
Throughout his graduate career, Abdulah applied his research in Carbonate Sedimentology and Stratigraphy in several industries through co-ops and industry internships. By interning in the carbon capture, mining, and energy sector, he was able to get a flavor of each industry, allowing him to plan his career path post-graduation. In the summer of 2022, Abdulah successfully defended his PhD dissertation and moved to Denver, Colorado where he started a new position as a Reservoir Characterization Geologist with Ovintiv (formerly Encana). In his new role, Abdulah is able to directly apply some of the results from his PhD research towards understanding basin scale sedimentation patterns and the intricate relationship between carbonate shelves and their basinal equivalents.
PhD in Geological Sciences, 2022
Now a Geologist at Devon Energy
Buddy’s PhD research focused on carbonate and siliciclastic sedimentology and stratigraphy working with the Reservoir Characterization Research Lab (RCRL) consortium at the Bureau of Economic Geology. After defending his dissertation, he returned to Devon Energy in Oklahoma City as a geologist in their integrated geosciences group. Since being back he has been aiding with core interpretation work, subsurface mapping, critical mineral evaluation, carbon storage, and internal training, organizing field trips for petrotechnical professionals at the company. He is still collaborating with researchers at UT and is currently Devon Energy’s liaison for communicating with industry consortia at the Bureau of Economic Geology.
Masters in Earth and Energy Resources (EER), 2022
Now a Senior Analyst with Strategen Consulting
While working towards her master’s degree in Energy and Earth Resources, Nina took advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of the program to sharpen her analytical abilities while also learning about different facets of the energy industry, including technology, finance, and policy. During her time at UT, Nina had the opportunity to work at the Energy Institute at UT and intern at a utility-scale storage developer. These experiences helped Nina discover a passion for emerging energy technologies. Nina graduated in May of 2022, and at the end of the summer she began working as an Energy Systems Planning Senior Analyst with Strategen Consulting based in Sacramento, California. At Strategen, she leverages the research and analysis skills she developed at the Jackson School to develop decarbonization strategy and evaluate resource plans on behalf of clients ranging from local governments to non-profits and international corporations.
PhD in Geological Sciences, 2022
Now an Applied Scientist at Amazon
During her PhD, Harpreet Kaur worked with Prof. Sergey Fomel on building deep learning frameworks for seismic data analysis. She interned with machine learning and deep learning research groups at different companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Microsoft Research. Currently, she is an Applied Scientist at Amazon and is working on building large scale machine learning based frameworks to support data driven research.
PhD in Geological Sciences, 2019
Now a Community Science Program Manager at Billion Oyster Project
Anna has always been passionate about engaging with communities and making science accessible to the public. She earned her Ph.D. in Invertebrate Paleontology in 2019, then did a postdoc before taking a position as a tenure-track assistant professor. After two years, she felt like she was not making the difference she had hoped, and left academia to join an environmental non-profit in New York City. As the Community Science Program Manager, Anna works with the public to conduct research projects relevant to NYC communities and helps advocate for environmental justice, especially around water quality and ecosystem health issues. On a daily basis she applies many of the skills she picked up at JSG, including research and data analysis, project management, communication, and community engagement.
BS in Environmental Science – Geological Science, 2016
Now an Assistant Vice President at NFP
Dana Carstens earned an environmental science bachelor’s degree through the EVS program at the Jackson School of Geosciences in 2016 and followed that with a master’s in geology from Tulane University in 2018. She began her career in environmental consulting as a geologist engaged in site investigation and remediation activities throughout Texas. She moved into the environmental insurance industry in 2021 to work as an environmental insurance broker. Now, Dana works at NFP as an Assistant Vice President where she specializes in the placement of environmental insurance coverage. Strict federal and state regulations, as well as the push for environmental responsibility, are pushing companies to properly manage their environmental exposure. Dana utilizes her background in geology and environmental consulting to help her clients understand their risk and to place appropriate coverage.
BS in Geology, 2017
Now a Business Analyst for Central Health
Chase finished his General Geosciences degree from the JSG in May of 2017. He left Texas for Washington, DC to work for a non-profit as an Administrative Assistant during the day while doing mission work at night. He returned to Austin in the summer of 2018 to work as a contract worker for a geophysics project in New Braunfels. After the contract period ended, Chase pursued a career shift into Special Education and Healthcare. After working with school districts for more than 3 years, he turned to working as a Business Analyst to lean on his skills as a geologist by asking questions on how processes work in an organization, documenting process flows, and creating visual aids to help people within an organization understand procedures. He currently works with Central Health as a Business Analyst in Austin to help research IT solutions and map their success plan for the public healthcare system of Travis County.
BS in Geology, 2018
Project Manager/GIS Technician for Public Management Inc
While a student at the Jackson School of Geosciences, Thomas was exposed to a plethora of options to draw on when deciding on a career. When the opportunity came to use remote sensing and GIS in NASA’s Develop program, he jumped on it. This experience proved invaluable in finding a job that Thomas found fulfilling and fun. He spent some time in Detroit volunteering in their City Planning department and then moved back home to work for Public Management, Inc. helping small towns in Texas develop comprehensive city plans and apply for federal funds for infrastructure improvements. He continues to make it his mission to enable underserved communities with locational intelligence.
We hope this list of career paths ignites some ideas for current students! That said, we recognize the difficulty of navigating the job market. Hands-on internship experiences can vary among graduate students who may or may not have additional constraints on their time, so what else can be done to explore career options?
In 2021, Dr. Tina Solvik taught a course here at UT (NSC 098D) titled “Investigating Career Options for Advanced STEM Degrees.” For those curious about this, you can follow Dr. Solvik’s process through her InsideHigherEd post. If you are exploring STEM pathways, the most common ones are listed in the image below:
Credit to Dr. Tina Solvik
This course covered many resources for graduate students to investigate:
Lastly, here are several recommended resources sorted by career path:
JSG alum Dr. Kristina Butler’s Future RockDoc Blog
AGI Advice from Geoscience Professionals (among other helpful AGI resources, check out their website!)
UTeach (Program to prepare teachers)
National Laboratories (17 National Labs that support scientific and engineering research)
Geoscientists Without Borders (supporting the humanitarian applications of geoscience around the world)
The Geological Society (UK) “Geology Career Pathways” Visualizer
European Commission EURAXESS Career Development Resources
Geoscience Resources on Opportunities in the Workforce (GROW) (non-academic career resources)