Student Profile


STEM career:  What is a Geoscientist?

CaraGeoscientists explore the physical aspects and phenomena that occur both inside and outside the earth and other planets.  They use this knowledge to increase our understanding of Earth’s past, present and future.

A geoscientist might examine soils and rocks to find new sources of useful materials such as groundwater, fossil fuels and metals.  Geoscientists could study the geologic nature of volcanoes, earthquakes, floods or hurricanes to help protect humans and their property from these natural hazards.

Others work in environmental protection and preservation, and may be involved in projects related to climate change or groundwater contamination.   

Geoscientists might work for universities, private research labs, petroleum companies, engineering firms, government agencies or nonprofit environmental organizations.

Cara completed her master’s degree in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Geology and Geographic Information Systems from the University of Michigan (U of M).  She is currently at the University of Kentucky working on her Ph.D.  in Geology.

Why did you choose to go to MCCC and how prepared were you when you transferred to a 4-year university?

Cara always knew she wanted to pursue a career in an environmental field, but she did not know specifically what field or exactly how to make that dream come true.

It wasn’t until she was 30 that she decided to go to college.  Cara, who lives 30 miles from Monroe County Community College, chose MCCC over a variety of other options closer to her.

“I had always heard good things about MCCC, so I drove out there to look at the campus and visit the admissions office,” she said.

“When I went into the A building, everyone was friendly and made me feel very welcome.  That made a huge difference to me because I was an older student.  I filled out the application, registered for classes and just kept going.”

Cara said she didn’t think about what she would do after MCCC until faculty members started asking about her plans.
“When faculty started asking me where I was transferring to, I felt like a deer in the headlights.  I was just trying to finish my Associate of Science degree,” she said.

“It was a turning point for me.  If STEM faculty were asking me where I was going next, they must believe in me.  That helped me gain confidence and realize that I could go on and pursue a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field.”

Cara transferred from MCCC to the University of Michigan to complete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  She said MCCC prepared her well for the university experience.

“I felt very prepared.  I had taken Calculus I, II and III, Engineering Physics I and II, one year of Inorganic Chemistry and one year of Organic Chemistry and several Biology courses.

“The U of M faculty were impressed with the foundation and background I received at MCCC.  So much so that it helped me secure a position as a lab technician in Dr. Kent Murry’s laboratory for my duration at U of M.”

What advice would you give to a 7th-12th grader who wanted to enter a STEM field?

“I would advise students to keep an open mind, be excited to learn, and never say, ‘I can’t.’  Attitude is everything.  It is important for students to learn how to behave in the professional world.  Make sure you look people in the eye and learn to shake hands properly.”

Written by: Tracy Rayl, Assistant Professor of Biology

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