My non-linear path to a GER career

Scott Clark, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

My path to Geoscience Education Research was rather circuitous. While pursuing my PhD in isotope geochemistry, I was fortunate to spend a year as a NSF GK-12 fellow. The GK-12 program at my university was multidisciplinary, and I am sure that a key factor in the selection committee's decision to bring me on was that I had previous experience working with K-12 students when I had served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. As a GK-12 fellow, I worked with a 5th grade teacher and his class. I was fascinated to see that the range of those students' performances and efforts was strikingly similarly to what I had seen in students enrolled in college-level geology labs as a T.A. While that experience is what got me interested in pursuing this field as a career, I did not have a clear idea about how to take the next step to get into GER. So, at the next GSA meeting, I simply approached people who had GER research posters and asked for their advice on how to get into the field. Their advice led me to meet the person who would become my postdoc advisor. But before I was offered the postdoc, the selection committee had reservations based on my lack of prior GER experience. As it turns out, without having the GK-12 fellowship, I would not have been offered the position. My time as a postdoc was exactly what it needed to be. I was mentored on what I needed to do to succeed, I had the opportunities to read relevant books and articles, and I had many opportunities to collaborate with professors, postdocs, and graduate students who were approaching DBER topics from a variety of STEM fields.

My advice to my younger self would be to read, read, read, and to learn as much about statistics as you can.