Alyssa Voelker; Undergraduate Student
Alyssa Voelker started out at UWM studying Conservation-Environmental Sciences, but was soon swept away by her enthusiasm for studying rocks. With a degree in Geophysics, she feels she has the opportunity to combine her love of geology with the practice of environmental conservation. It is very important for her to be in a career that allows her to spend time outdoors where she is genuinely in awe of her surroundings. Participation in a research project last year helped Alyssa realize just how important being in the field is to her. She also came to find a love for research itself and hopes to be involved with more of it in the near future. Alyssa takes great pleasure in staying involved with the Department of Geosciences at UWM. She is an active member of the Geology Club, an attendant of the Greene Geological Gallery, and took the position of a lab assistant for a student in Geology 100 last semester.
Besides her zeal for geosciences, Alyssa is also a vocal musician. She has performed and recorded with a number of local artists including Willy Porter. Camping, backpacking, and biking are amongst her other hobbies. Seeing that the natural surroundings are incredibly important to Alyssa, she enjoys using her talent to encourage positive change through benefit concerts with environmental and social undertones.
Alyssa grew up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, where she graduated from Pewaukee High School in 2005. She is currently a senior at UWM and will graduate in May of 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geophysics.
- What brought you to UWM?
I originally attended Mount Mary where I was working towards a degree in the arts; I soon came to realize that was not the path for me. I decided to transfer to UWM in order to continue taking classes for my general education requirements with hopes of finding out what I was actually interested in. The fact that it was close to my family and affordable definitely influenced my choice.
- What convinced you to major in Geosciences?
When I first transferred to UWM I was interested in majoring in Conservation-Environmental Science focusing on water resource management. Geology 100 filled a requirement for that major and I enjoyed it. I ended up taking another geology course, that being mineralogy, and realized that geology was something I wanted to learn more about.
- What field of study would you like to go into and how would you describe it to a prospective student?
I am most interested in studying the field of hydrogeology. Hydrogeology is the interaction between groundwater movement and geology. An understanding of how groundwater moves through rock is important in determining the availability of our water supply. Our livelihood is dependent on freshwater resources and this will become even more evident in the coming decade.
- What's been your best experience so far?
The knowledge I have gained thus far has been my best experience. I know this is rather broad and cliché, but I love going for hike near by or on vacation across the country and happening upon a cool outcrop. Before I was a geology major I would appreciate it only because it looked amazing. Now, I am able to look at it and have an idea of what it is composed of or how it formed.
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in field trips, field work, or travel as part of your education?
Lots! I didn’t know that students went on this many field trips in college. The field trips have ranged from one day to a few nights, from camping to staying in motels. They are a great way to apply what you have learned in the classroom to the field as well as get to know your professors and classmates. For me, this is ideal for my hands-on learning style. In addition to learning a whole bunch, they are really fun!
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in a student research project while at UWM?
I have participated in one student research project so far, which was a requirement a structural geology class. The project was on the jointing found in the Maribel Caves. After completing this research, I came to realize how much I enjoyed field research. I am hoping to secure a research position through the NSF-REU program this summer.
- What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in geology?
I ask a lot of questions. If I don’t understand something, I don’t hesitate to dig in and figure out what it is that I’m struggling with. Getting to know the students in your classes is a great way to help you learn, as it will allow you to bounce ideas off one another. Most importantly, try to have fun with whatever you are doing.
- How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
Wonderful! When I transferred here from a small private college I was worried I wouldn’t like the large university feel. Although I had to take a few large lecture classes, the Department of Geosciences at UWM has the small feel that I find so important. It is a close-knit department, making it easy to get to know everyone and be known.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to a student who is new to the Geoscience major at UWM?
Make sure to utilize your resources. There is so much that this university offers and I feel like many people do not use what’s right in front if them. If you are struggling in a class, there is always someone who can help you. Don’t be shy and get involved with everything that interests you. This major has a lot of available opportunities; jump on those opportunities!
- What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
I absolutely love the seasons. The Midwest has the best weather in the world in my opinion. What’s great about Milwaukee is that it has an urban appeal, but it’s not so huge that it is difficult to get around. A 15-minute bike ride gets you from downtown to campus. A five-minute walk takes you down to Lake Michigan. A 20-minute car ride takes you completely out of the city to natural areas for a hike. With each season brings a plethora of options for outdoor fun.
- What are your plans after you graduate?
I do plan on returning to school for my Masters at some point. Fresh water resources will be the primary focus of my future studies. When I was a young girl I lived on Pewaukee Lake and I am very familiar with the environmental obstacles that the Lake Country area has faced. My career goals include being employed in a position that allows me to help alleviate those problems as well as facilitate a sustainable industry.