Andrew Madsen: Undergraduate Geology Major
- Currently studying for a Geoscience BS degree
- Completed several Geology and peripheral science-math courses
As the descendant of a long line of statisticians, I have always loved math. While my father, and especially my grandfather, would be quick to remind you that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, even they would have to acknowledge that their influence in this area was significant. Whether I was memorizing pi to an absurd number of places for my father’s class Pi Day competition or participating in statistical surveys around my grandparents’ dining room table (is it really possible to taste the difference between skim milk and two-percent?), I was fortunate enough to grow up around people who taught me to enjoy a subject that most people hate.
At the same time, I was never all that set on making a career out of mathematics. At various points during my childhood, I wanted to be a geologist, an architect, and a Lego designer. I didn’t realize it then, but I now see that I’ve always been too artistically inclined to be a mathematician. Instead, I needed a way to pair my artistic inclinations with my mathematical ways of thinking. I should also add that I grew up in a family that does a fair amount of camping, hiking, biking, and canoeing. Consequently, I developed a strong love of the outdoors, and the idea of a desk job or a lab job seemed terrifying to me. But, as someone with scientific inclinations, I figured that such a career was inevitable.
As I finished up high school and prepared to go off to college, I knew that I wanted to major in a subject in which I would use math. At the time, I was almost certain that meant I would be studying chemistry or physics. Upon arriving at Wheaton College as a bewildered freshman, I realized that being a chemistry major would require me to either retake General Chemistry or take the infamous Organic Chemistry class right out of the gate. So, I became a physics major. Then I realized that physics made very little sense to me, and I figured that I would major in math after all. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly disgusted with Wheaton’s location in the endless suburban sprawl, and was consequently becoming more and more disillusioned with the idea of a desk job.
Fortunately, thanks to Wheaton’s strange curriculum, I had a geology professor for what was essentially my first-year Bible class. My professor posed an interesting scenario to me: I could be doing science outside! It sounded too good to be true, and I wasn’t immediately sold. Rocks looked cool and all, but I was pretty sure that they weren’t worth studying for four years, much less an entire career. However, as the semester progressed, I began to learn that geology was about much more than just looking at rocks. I became particularly interested in the history of the earth; I had only been taught a literal six-day creation in school and at home, so an entirely new world was opened up to me as I began to realize what geology had to say about the past. Furthermore, I learned that geology could involve math! Here at last, I thought, was a major that I could enjoy.
On becoming a geology major, I was faced with the task of figuring out which particular area of geology interested me the most. I had no idea that there was so much variety within the field of geology before coming to college, so this process of narrowing my interests has not been fast or simple. Each class that I’ve taken has exposed me to different aspects of geology--one class will deal entirely with water, for example, or another will be devoted to the application of physics to the study of the earth. So far, my favorite class has been “Earth History and Stratigraphy,” which essentially explores what sedimentary rock layers can tell us about the past. Geologists who concentrate on sedimentary rocks often end up working in the oil industry, which is something that I could see myself enjoying. However, one of the first people who got me really excited about geology was my “no-rock” professor, who currently develops inexpensive geophysical instruments and trains missionaries to use them for drilling water wells. Long before coming to Wheaton, I had been hoping to find a way to use my degree to serve people in a developing country (following the example of my father, who taught math in Botswana after graduating from college). Consequently, working in international water development seems to be an almost perfect fit for me, and is currently the option that I’m leaning towards. Finally, I have long felt that it is inevitable that I’ll end up being a teacher at some point. I’ve never had a definite passion for teaching, but I’ve often been told that I’m good at explaining things, probably because I have so many teachers in my family. I know that I don’t want to be a teacher right off the bat (I need a break from school!), but the more experience I get from TA-ing and tutoring, the more I enjoy it.
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that I’ll never be a teacher, a hydrogeologist, or a petroleum geologist. Even in just 20 years of life, I’ve seen God throw enough “plot twists” at me that I’m starting to learn not to worry too much about what the future holds.