Finzel_cropEmily Finzel; Featured Alumni

A Midwesterner at heart, I was born and raised in southeast Wisconsin where I received a B.S. in Geology at the University of WI – Milwaukee in 2000. My husband and I decided that Alaska was the place to be, and I completed an M.S. degree at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks in 2004. My project focused on the origin of Cretaceous conglomerate exposed on a growth syncline in the northern Brooks Range foothills. The goal was to define the relationship between timing of deposition of the conglomerate and timing of deformation of the anticline. During graduate school at UAF, I was a geological intern at the Alaska State Geological Survey and after receiving my degree, I worked as a Geologist for the Energy Section of the Survey for a few years. The job was very exciting and involved months of remote, helicopter-based field work all over Alaska every summer!

Eventually I decided to go back to school to pursue a Ph.D. at Purdue University. My research interests can be broadly classified as basin analysis, which is a method for deciphering the spatial and temporal formation and evolution of sedimentary basins. I would brand my expertise as sedimentology/stratigraphy, however, basin analysis requires familiarity with and integration of a wide variety of earth science fields, including sedimentology, stratigraphy, tectonics, geophysics, geomorphology, geochemistry, structural geology, and numerical modeling. In my doctoral research, I combined field-based geologic studies with computer-aided numerical modeling to evaluate the geodynamics of sedimentary basin development along the southern Alaska convergent margin.

While working on my Ph.D., I spent parts of two summers working as an intern for Chevron in Anchorage, Alaska, and ExxonMobil in Houston, Texas. I also took one semester off to teach as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

Throughout my academic training, I was fortunate to receive financial support and recognition from various entities:

Grants and Scholarships:
2008-2010 American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund
2007-2008 Purdue Research Fellowship
2007 AAPG Wallace E. Pratt Memorial Grant
2007 William J. Hinze Graduate Award in Exploration Geophysics, Purdue University
2007 Michael C. Gardner Memorial Award, Purdue University
2007 Cedric J. Newby Award, Purdue University
2006-2007 Ross Fellowship, Purdue University
2004 BP-Amoco Scholarship, University of Alaska - Fairbanks
2003 Grants-In-Aid Project, AAPG Foundation
2003 Alaska Geological Society Scholarship

Academic Honors:
2010 Outstanding Graduate Student, Purdue University
2008 Outstanding Poster at the Graduate Student Expo, Purdue University
2007 Outstanding Talk at the Graduate Student Expo, Purdue University
2000 Golden Key National Honor Society Inductee

After finishing at Purdue in 2010, I went to work for ExxonMobil in Houston, TX. I was in the Exploration Company and used mostly 2D and some 3D seismic, well logs, surface geologic maps, and published literature to search for oil and gas opportunities in foldbelts located in China, North America, and South America. I also contributed to the construction of in-house teaching tools for shallow water depositional environments.

Most recently, I have accepted a position with the University of Iowa to begin Fall 2012. I am very excited to get back to teaching and field research and am looking forward to new challenges.

  1. Hometown/High School?
    Oconomowoc, WI
  2. Where do you reside now?
    Houston, TX but soon to be Iowa City, IA.
  3. What degree(s)did you obtain from UWM and when?
    B.S. Geology, 2000
  4. What was your field of interest in Geology at UWM?
    Clastic sedimentology and stratigraphy.
  5. What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your degree?
    Being from southeast Wisconsin, UWM was the obvious choice for higher education. I started as a business major, but one geology class changed that!
  6. What did you enjoy most about the department, UWM, and Milwaukee?
    Looking back, I liked the focus on fundamental geoscience courses. Many departments encourage students to specialize too early, but the education I received at UWM was comprehensive and prepared me well for graduate school.
  7. What is your current job (or field of study) and how would you describe it to one of our current students (e,g,m what do you do, how rewarding is it)?
    I recently accepted an Assistant Professor position with the University of Iowa in Iowa City and will begin in Fall 2012. I will be teaching sedimentology and stratigraphy related courses and will conduct field-based studies in Alaska and new areas as well.
  8. Why did you choose this career?
    I love being outside and have a passion for solving puzzles, so it is the perfect career for me! I spend a large part of most summers doing field work, and the rest of the year using the data to piece together a picture of the regional tectonics and stratigraphy of an area.
  9. What's been your best experience in geology (or your career) so far?
    My best experiences have been in the field with students. Geology is one of the sciences that you have to learn in a hands-on environment, and teaching in the field is rewarding for both students and instructors. A long day hiking around, gathering data, and testing hypotheses is time well spent.
  10. In your career, have you gotten the opportunity to travel or to work with people as part of your job?
    I have traveled all over North America for field work, conferences, and lab work. Working with other scientists, students, pilots, and locals is essential to be successful.
  11. What trait or thing(s) that you learned while in Geosciences at UWM has allowed you to succeed in your career?
    Find what you love. Work becomes much less “work-like” when you enjoy what you are doing. Students should also be open to trying new research and techniques. During my Ph.D., I went from being a purely field-based geologist to incorporating numerical models to solve tectonic problems, and the experience has given me a much better understanding of the earth and made me a broader scientist.
  12. Do you have any advice that you would give to our current students about their education or in selecting a career once they graduate?
    My advice is to be open to opportunities. I have been fortunate to work in government, industry, and academics in order to really try on different careers to see if they fit. Don’t be afraid to move around or change something if it isn’t working.
  13. What is/was the hardest thing that you had to do in your career?
    Being away from family of course! My daughter is two-years-old, and leaving her and my husband to attend meetings and do field work is always challenging, but coming home is very fulfilling!

Back to Featured Students for May