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Student Impressions of the Graduate Program

Click on a student's name to go to their impression of the graduate program.

Howard Chen, Ph.D. Candidate Howard is a current student, advised by Dr. Dan Horton

Jamie McFarlin, Ph.D. 2019Jamie is a postdoctoral associate at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Joshua Townsend, Ph.D. 2016. Joshua is a postdoctoral researcher at Sandia National Laboratories.

Laurel Childress, Ph.D. 2016. Following a postdoctoral scholar position at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Laurel is now an Expedition Project Manager/Staff Scientist with the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) at Texas A&M University.

Maya Gomes, Ph.D. 2014. Maya is an Assistant Professor in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts & Sciences


Student Impressions

Howard Chen, Ph.D. Candidate: "My graduate school experience thus far at Northwestern has been extremely pleasant. I have been constantly challenged and provoked to think of new research ideas. Specifically, the EPS department encourages their graduate students to rise beyond their daily comfort zones. For instance, it is required that each of us conduct a secondary research project outside of our primary research topic. This requirement fosters out-of-the-box thinking and helps us navigate and clarify our research directions. As my research topic resides at the intersection between Earth, planetary science, and astrophysics, I highly benefited from the wide array of departments/center such as CIERA and ISEN associated with EPS. For example, the existence of Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration & Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) offers a host of opportunities for collaborative projects between astronomy and geosciences. These various initiatives represent the sort of attitude towards scientific research that EPS and Northwestern as a whole stand for. During my time here thus far, I have worked closely with my mentor, who has provided me with the resources and freedom to craft research projects aligned to my interests in answering the big questions such as "where do we come from?", "where are we going?", and "what else is out there?". The faculty, students, and staff are all very helpful, supportive, and approachable and make me feel like I am an integral part of the community. In summary, I believe that Northwestern and EPS have provided me with the perfect environment that will nurture me into a creative, knowledgeable, and independent researcher."

Jamie McFarlin, Ph.D. 2019"Working on my PhD in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department at Northwestern University has been such a rewarding experience. The department challenges students to be independent, creative researchers and supports their growth in this role. There are diverse opportunities to develop skills in science writing, public outreach, teaching and field geology, along with encouragement to learn analytical tools inside and out of your primary research area of interest. I have loved that my PhD experience has allowed me to bridge across lab groups to learn and utilize skills in paleoecology and organic geochemistry, access amazing analytical facilities regularly, and work with advisors that are thoroughly invested in the success of all my dissertation work."

Joshua Townsend, Ph.D. 2016: “My experience as a graduate student at Northwestern was singular largely because of the limitless support and encouragement of my advisors Professors Steven Jacobsen and Craig Bina. In addition to working closely with my advisors, I was able to collaborate internationally through an NSF EAPSI fellowship to Japan in 2012. It’s no exaggeration to say that that experience fundamentally changed my research. I am so thankful that at Northwestern I was encouraged from the start to pursue my own scientific curiosity and passion. That experience and others helped me develop as an independent researcher. Now as a postdoc in a national laboratory, I find myself well prepared to engage and collaborate with my colleagues on a variety of interesting scientific endeavors. ”

Laurel Childress, Ph.D. 2016: "The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences helped not only to broaden my research interests and experience, but allowed me to better explore who I wanted to become as a scientist. The broad range of faculty research led me to exciting and truly innovative areas of research that would not have been possible in many programs. Encouragement from the department and my committee to write my own funding proposals was an exceptionally valuable aspect of my graduate career. Not only did this lead to additional funding for research, but it allowed me to study and practice this process during a time where my career was not dependent on it. My committee allowed me a large degree of latitude with defining my own research and networks, including the opportunity to sail multiple oceanographic expeditions during my degree. In addition to the wonderful research resulting from these expeditions, I was able to cultivate my own scientific network, acquire international collaborations, and focus my research and teaching toward a field about which I am passionate."

Maya Gomes, Ph.D. 2014: "I thoroughly enjoyed my graduate experience at Northwestern because of the fabulous community that fosters high quality geoscience research and instruction. The department was small enough that I was on first name basis with all of the faculty and graduate students, but large enough that there was a broad range of research opportunities and knowledge. I was able to work closely with my advisor, who gave me the tools, freedom, and support to both pursue my graduate research and develop as an independent researcher. The entire faculty was very approachable, so I always felt I could ask any faculty member for help or advice. The graduate student community was also very supportive; people were always willing to watch a practice talk, proof read a document, or water the plants when someone was out of town. The staff did an amazing job ensuring that everything ran smoothly in the department. In addition to the state-of the-art labs and computing capabilities in the department, the local resources (Argonne National Labs, Chicago Botanical Garden, The Field Museum) allowed for excellent research opportunities. I am also so happy that I had an opportunity to live in Chicago; it is really a wonderful city! Overall, I am confident that the preparation and instruction that I received at Northwestern has put me in a excellent position to pursue a career in geoscience research."