Goodbye, Los Angeles
I can't believe that I'll be leaving for French Guiana tomorrow.
I say that with a mix of fear and excitement. I'm actually a little apprehensive to go to French Guiana. It will be my first time living alone in a foreign country with a foreign language. And it feels strange to admit that I'm scared - I had always thought of myself as this tough, fearless girl who isn't afraid of anything. After all, I had left home for boarding school at age 14, and at age 17 I camped alone in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for five days and four nights.
But now, I'm okay with being scared. Yesterday, I read this amazing article on rural women in India moving to the city for economic opportunities. I use the adjective "amazing" because these women are far braver than I am, battling social attitudes and family members who are trying to hold them back. A few lines really resounded with me - they are about a man named Karuna, who defies his village's social expectations to send his two daughters, Prabhati and Shashi, to work in a city factory:
When word spread that he had agreed to send Prabhati and Shashi, the village elders convened emergency meetings to determine whether this violated 'purdah,' or the separation between the sexes, and whether this would damage the marriage prospects of their own daughters. Women stopped by to tease the girl's mother, Radha Rani, who wept inconsolably.
I have enjoyed the month that I've spend in LA, but like Karuna said to his daughters, "Ok - you're scared. That's ok. But now you have to move on."
I'm also glad that I'm taking a year off before graduate school. It's helped me realize that I proactively enjoy academic research, and it's something I'd like to be doing for a while. For example, I find myself reading papers & preparing for conferences even though I don't necessarily have to, now. Being back at USC for a month has also made me realize that I missed the academic environment - I missed the dynamism of a college campus and being friends with people across all age groups and professional levels. I also missed the camaraderie of being part of a lab group & running into others when I come in to work on the weekends. I'm not sure I would have had these insights if I had plunged directly into a PhD program right after undergraduate.
So tomorrow I am leaving on a jet plane... to embark on a two-day journey to French Guiana, mainly through a series of layovers in Brazil. One day I'll have enough money for a more direct flight, but tomorrow is not that day. I'll let you all know how the trip goes, though, and I'll see you all on the other side!
Sigma Gamma Epsilon
My last year in college, I was Vice President of the USC chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the national honor society for earth sciences. I had a wonderful time working with our President, Yuxin Zhou (currently pursuing a PhD at Columbia University), and co-Vice President Moriah Mulroe (currently at Queen Mary University of London on the prestigious Marshall Scholarship). (Yes - I have some truly impressive friends.) I really value (and enjoy!) giving back to my profession through positions like these, and my fellow Sig Gam members helped to make my senior year truly memorable.
I recently attended a recent Sig Gam meeting to re-live old memories, and to see how my beloved academic club is doing. I am happy to report that Sig Gam is in great hands, supervised by President Pete Wynn, Vice President Kimberly Morales, Treasurer Roxanne Lai, and Secretary Nathan Kemnitz (link to USC chapter here).
I enjoyed hearing about all the speakers they are going to bring in, all the community outreach they will do, and the (interesting) Sig Gam gear suggestions put forth. I'm sad that I won't be able to attend any of these events since I'll be in French Guiana, but I'm excited to see what they'll do next!
A day at the beach
This past week I've been busy reading papers, applying to graduate schools, and studying for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). Needless to say, I have been spending a lot of time hunched in front of my computer. However, (like a typical Californian) I still found time to go to the beach and (like a typical geologist) I had a lot of fun thinking about modern environments!
This Saturday, I went to the Leo Carillo State Park beach in Malibu. While my partner, Jan, went fishing, I wandered around, fascinated by the dynamism of the waves and its interactions with the shoreline. I watched as wave after wave sorted and tossed pebbles onto beach sands, and I found some great examples of how minerals can be preferentially sorted by density. Moving water (like incoming waves at a beach) will loft minerals and rock fragments, and then waning flow (in the form of a receding wave), will cause denser particles to fall out first because they require more energy to stay aloft. This process can create distinct patterns easily seen by the naked eye.
Magnetite is a dense, iron oxide mineral, and it offered great examples of preferential sorting at Leo Carillo. Fragments of it pooled into a shallow depression created by a rock, and traced the fine troughs of a delicate branching pattern carved by a receding wave. It was so interesting to watch this sorting happen in real time. (I would also like to apologize for committing a cardinal sin in all my geology photos this post, which is the lack of a scale!)
I like thinking about modern environments (read: I like going to the beach) because I like envisioning how these things will be preserved in the rock record. Over time, repeated motions and sortings caused by waves, like at Leo Carillo beach, can create the "stripes" that you sometimes see in sedimentary rocks. (Think of a layered cake with alternating black and white horizontal bands.) Many other processes can create this "striping" as well, and environmental forces create all sorts of interesting patterns that are later preserved in rocks. Sometimes, I wonder if future geologists will be able to identify the Anthropocene through a plastic-rich unit in the rock record.
Beaches are also places of incredible erosional forces, and this was on full display at Leo Carillo. California is heavily populated along the ocean, and these erosional forces are coming into conflict with homeowners and cities up and down the coast. (See this New York Times article on El Niño-enhanced erosion in Pacifica, CA.) Seeing this crumpled road at Leo Carillo was just a small reminder that we cannot escape the greater geologic forces surrounding us. I wonder what this beach will look like in the next ten or twenty years, and how much of this road will be left (if at all).
Back in the lab
Thank you for visiting my new blog! My goal with this blog is to give you all a fuller picture of myself, my interests and my travels.
I am back in Los Angeles after finishing my summer internship at S.S. Papadopulos & Associates, an environmental consulting firm in Bethesda, Maryland. I had a great time meeting all the staff, learning about cutting-edge groundwater contaminant modeling, and applying all the geochemistry skills I had learned at USC! Some of my responsibilities were researching the toxicology of organic contaminants like perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), and performing basic geochemical modeling on the fate of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminated soil and surface water.
I am currently in Los Angeles because I am back at the University of Southern California (USC) with the goal of turning my Senior Thesis into a paper for publication. My Senior Thesis was titled "The Effect of Heated Vapor Phase Acidification on Organic Carbon Concentrations and Isotopic Values in Geologic Rock Samples" and is available here through the USC Earth Sciences website. My co-authors and I are running more analyses, and I am (slowly but surely!) preparing a draft manuscript. The whole process of preparing a paper for journal submission has been both exciting and frustrating, but all my research and work experiences so far have only strengthened my resolve to enroll in a PhD program and become an independent researcher.
However, I will soon be leaving Los Angeles to teach English in French Guiana (Guyane en français) for seven months! Guyane is an overseas French Department located in South America. I will be employed by the French Government through the Teaching Assistant Program in France and will be teaching at the high school level in the cities of Matoury and Maripasoula. I am extremely excited to meet les Guyanais, gain fluency in French, and learn more about South American and French culture. So - stay tuned for some exciting posts from Guyane!
Thanks for reading my first post!