Post by Charlie Filipovich (Colgate '23).
Sitting on the deck of the R/V Apalachee, taking in the slightly salty breeze and enjoying the complimentary turbulence, there were two things on my mind: 1) thanking the creators of motion sickness medicine and aggressively spicy snacks, and 2) pondering options of how I can continue to do this after Colgate. As a rising senior, I can see the maroon light at the end of the tunnel, with the looming question of “what’s next?” pushing me ever closer to it.
I like to think of my academic journey thus far as its own experiment: much like this summer’s fieldwork, flexibility is required and you never know for certain what you’re going to discover. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in academia after Colgate, perhaps in the form of a PhD or Master’s program, but I wasn’t totally sure if paleobiology was the right field for me or if grad school was something I was truly interested in. With only classroom experience, I needed more data to test my hypothesis. This summer was the perfect opportunity to do so.
Something I learned quite quickly is, like the organisms we’re studying, there are times when we need to adapt to our surrounding conditions. Everyday lent something new, from different weather conditions (sometimes preventing us from going offshore), new substrate types that required different methods of sieving samples, or unexpected hiccups. This is the nature of fieldwork, and despite times of uncertainty, I loved every minute of it. In fact, on our downtimes onshore, I began to look at potential grad school programs that are located on the coast, studying the intersections of paleobiology and climate science! Part one of my hypothesis: check!
In addition to our fieldwork, we had the pleasure of being joined by faculty of local universities in related fields. While nerding out over our samples, we casually discussed their journeys to grad school and what their recommendations were for a very early career scientist. I really appreciated their advice, and different perspectives, especially having valuable insight into the admissions process and what life is like in a PhD program. Plus, a couple of the professors that joined us took their own samples from our boxcores, which goes to show all of the different avenues one can study from a similar sampling procedure. I feel much more confident in reaching out to potential advisers and the “do’s and don'ts” of applications. Part two of my hypothesis: check! Overall, this summer has been really influential on my plans for the future and I am excited to begin the analysis phase of our research!