Mike KennedyMike Kennedy; Masters Student

Mike Kennedy is an M.S. student in the UW-Milwaukee Department of Geosciences, studying sedimentary geology under Drs. John Isbell and Peter Sheehan. He expects to finish his masters degree by May of 2011. Mike also completed his undergraduate work (B.S. in Geosciences) at UWM, graduating in May of 2009. Since becoming a geologist, Mike has been awarded a Field Camp Scholarship (2008), Chancellor’s Graduate Student Award (2009, 2010), Departmental Scholarship for Fieldwork (2010), and the Antoinette Lierman Medlin Scholarship (GSA Coal Division, 2010). He presented an abstract at the GSA Annual Meeting in October of 2010 entitled: “Testing extinction as a mechanism for environmental change at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, MT, USA.” Upon completion of his masters degree, Mike plans to pursue a PhD and then either teach or work in industry. He has enjoyed his time at UWM and is grateful for the opportunities the department has given him.

  1. Hometown?
    Franklin, WI
  2. Previous degrees (Degree and University)?
    B.S. in Geosciences, UW-Milwaukee
  3. Expected graduation date?
    M.S. degree expected in May, 2011
  4. What is your field of study and how would you describe it to a prospective graduate student?
    My field is sedimentary geology. Right now I am studying paleoenvironments at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary from the Montana badlands. Although the mass extinction at this time is well-documented, the associated landscape evolution is poorly understood. There is an abrupt change in facies at the boundary, and I am trying to determine whether this environmental change was caused by the asteroid impact or by sea level. This project deals with a lot of fluvial sedimentology, but basic principles of sequence stratigraphy also come into play. This project has virtually nothing to do with paleontology or dinosaurs. I used to think I wanted to study dinosaurs, but not anymore.
  5. What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your graduate degree?
    I came to UWM straight from high school. The first geology class that got me hooked into the major was Margaret Fraiser’s Historical class, which seems to be a common theme around here. Dr. Fraiser was the most helpful in getting me started as a geologist. I always knew I wanted to get an advanced degree, regardless of what field, and I am very happy that I chose geosciences. I decided to stay at UWM for my masters rather than go elsewhere because I felt very comfortable in the department, and the opportunity to work with John Isbell and Peter Sheehan was too good to turn down.
  6. What's been your best experience so far?
    Going to the Bahamas in 2009 was the most enjoyable experience. Learning how to do research through writing grants, proposals, etc., has been the most valuable.
  7. In graduate School, have you gotten the opportunity to travel as part of your education?
    I do my fieldwork in the badlands of Montana. Through various other geological excursions, I have traveled to Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and the Bahamas.
  8. What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in graduate school?
    Unlike most people, I actually enjoy the writing process – even if I’m just describing yet another sandstone. Writing does not feel like a horrible frightening chore to me, and that mindset has made graduate school easier.
  9. Do you have any advice that you would give to a new graduate student in your program?
    Be confident, and don’t be intimidated. Writing a good thesis is a lot of work and can seem overwhelming, but thousands of people do it. Why can’t you? A good idea is to write an outline right away, so you can track your progress, and then just keep plugging away. Also, try to start writing as soon as possible. Even if you are still waiting on some results, write your previous research. Start describing facies, or describe your methods. If you wait a long time to start writing, you probably won’t graduate for 3+ years.
  10. What has been the hardest part about being a graduate student (Is there anything that you've had to "give up" as a graduate student)?
    Is there anything I’ve had to “give up?” Like what, beer? No, I have not had to give up beer. But seriously, my standard of living has increased since becoming a graduate student. Our tuition is covered, and the stipend we get from teaching is more than adequate. It’s a pretty sweet gig.
  11. What are your plans after you graduate?
    I plan to go straight for a PhD after I graduate. I’m not sure where yet, but I want my next degree to focus on sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy. After that, I will either work in industry or teach.
  12. How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
    I’ve heard the words “close-knit” and “family” used a lot. I think those words are appropriate. Also, the faculty is very helpful, approachable, and at the top of their respective fields. I think that academically, our department is quite underrated.
  13. What has been your favorite activity while you’ve been in Graduate School in Milwaukee?
    Outside of school, I enjoy all the usual things… movies, sports, seeing friends, etc. Traveling interests me. I’ll also admit that I have an artistic inclination, and I enjoy playing piano and writing.
  14. What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
    I think Milwaukee is pretty much a perfect-sized city. It is not too crowded, yet not too small. Being on the lake is nice. There is a good variety of places to eat and drink, and I enjoy supporting the local baseball team. In all, a very comfortable and underrated place to live.

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