Dr. Laura Guertin is a professor of Earth Science at Penn State Brandywine, located right outside of Philadelphia in Media, Pennsylvania. She received her BA in geology from Bucknell University and her PhD in marine geology & geophysics from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Her research in her early professional years was determining an integrated chronostratigraphy for the Late Cenozoic mixed carbonate/siliciclastic sediments on the South Florida Platform (specifically in the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park), but she has extended her research to include a pedagogical agenda. Laura is interested in researching how new and emerging technologies enhance student learning in introductory-level geoscience courses, how to increase the scientific literacy of students (especially non-science majors) in introductory-level geoscience courses, and how to design effective mentoring practices and undergraduate research experiences for students in the freshman and sophomore years. She has been successful at securing funding for both her science and teaching research and is past chair of the Geoscience Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research and a former councilor-at-large with the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.
Are you sensing a theme here with “introductory level”? Laura is not part of a geology department at her campus. As the only geologist at Penn State Brandywine, she is alone in her discipline and therefore has all of her teaching efforts focused on courses for non-science majors trying to satisfy general education requirements. This is one reason why Laura started the “Lone Rangers” group in ESWN. The sense of isolation can be strong, and there are few opportunities beyond GSA/AGU meetings to even communicate in person with other geologists. At least the online forums at ESWN provide a virtual opportunity to feel connected!
Laura appreciates that ESWN exists, and she wishes this group was around when she was going through school! As an undergraduate student, she only had one female professor for all of her STEM courses (she taught engineering statistics). In graduate school, she also had only one female professor across all of her courses (another math course). Knowing that there were female professionals in the geosciences would have provided her even more confidence in her career choice – and it would have given her some information she could respond with when one of the many people in her life would state, “Girls don’t do science.” Laura feels that it is such an honor to know and be a part of a community of such inspiring women with such professional and personal accomplishments!