Episode Notes | Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   3-Minute Listen

We have Juk Bhattacharyya, Professor of Geology at University of Wisconsin Whitewater on our podcast. 

In this Podcast, Professor Bhattacharyya tells us what Geology is, its Origins & Its Importance, areas of Geology, Key Discoveries, the skills needed to pursue Geology in College and the Career opportunities.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. What is Geology?
  2. Why is Geology Important?
  3. Key Discoveries
  4. Skills to Study Geology
  5. Career Opportunities

Episode Notes

Episode Title: About Majors: What is Geology? With Prof. Juk Bhattacharyya of UW Whitewater.

The goal of this series is to serve as a Primer for High Schoolers about a College Major, through our conversations with Faculty Experts in the various US Colleges and Universities.

We continue this series with Geology, with Prof. Juk Bhattacharyya of UW Whitewater.

In particular, we discuss the following with her:

  • What is Geology ?
  • Areas of Geology
  • Key Discoveries
  • Skills Needed
  • Career Opportunities

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introducing Prof. Juk Bhattacharyya [0:54]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:50]
  • What is Geology? [4:20]
  • The Origins [8:11]
  • Why is Geology Important? [16:15]
  • Branches of Geology [19:54]
  • Key Discoveries [23:27]
  • What’s Needed to Pursue Geoscience? [25:51]
  • The Need for Interdisciplinary Study [31:25]
  • Career Opportunities [32:58]
  • Grad School vs Industry [37:17]
  • Prof. Bhattacharyya’s Geology Journey [41:20]

Our Guest: Juk Bhattacharyya is a Professor of Geology at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Prof.Bhattacharyya graduated with a Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Calcutta and her PhD in Geology from the University of Minnesota.

Memorable Quote: “So geologists are some of the people who are at the forefront of whenever disaster strikes. So anywhere you have a landslide, you have geologists who are looking at monitoring it. They're trying to address it. Anywhere you have a tsunami, you have geologists jumping in, to provide information, what's going, what to do, what not to do.” Prof. Bhattacharyya.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

Suggestions for you: Primers on College Majors


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

<Start Snippet> Prof Juk Bhattacharyya  0:14  

So when you say the history of geology, we are going back to the earliest stages of human civilization, where, well, they didn't have systematic studies, or you don't have any record of that. I don't know if there was a geology university or something. You know what I mean? Yeah, but that knowledge had to be transferred somehow like that a teacher teaching students how to figure out rocks or different properties of rock. What kind of observations do you make? How do you figure out where to find water when you're traveling.

Venkat  0:54  [Introducing Prof. Juk Bhattacharyya, UW Whitewater]

That is Juk Bhattacharyya, Professor of Geology at University of Wisconsin Whitewater.

Hello, I am your host, Venkat Raman.

Today’s episode is on Geology, or Geoscience as Prof. Bhattacharyya calls it, on our podcast series on “College Majors” to serve as a Primer for High Schoolers.

We are fortunate to have Professor Bhattacharyya with us on our podcast.

Venkat Raman  1:20

In this Podcast, Professor Bhattacharyya tells us what Geology is, its Origins & Its Importance, areas of Geology, Key Discoveries, the skills needed to pursue Geology in College and the Career opportunities.

Venkat Raman  1:36

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Juk  1:50  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[What is Geology?]

A lot of people think geology is just a study of rocks. So looking at rocks, rocks is one aspect of it. But we look at how the planet formed. Our planet formed the planetary system, sun, the other outer planets, inner planets, and then take it on to how the galaxy and other things formed.

[Why is Geology Important?]

Geologists are useful and important both for extracting resources, like the metals and energy resources, and also for taking care of the environment of what happens before during and after we extract the resources.

[Key Discoveries]

how old the planet is, is a big one. So just the fact that we are talking about a planet that is 4.6 billion years old. Just to get that number. Yeah, huge. It took a long time, a lot of work.


[Skills to Study Geology]

I just went to a preschool with rocks. They had I took samples that I gave my college students and the little kids are fine looking at igneous rocks and volcanic glass and metamorphic rocks. They had their little hand Lance's and looking at mineral frames, arrangements and things. And they're drawing pictures. So it was fun it was but that's something they started pretty early on.

[Career Opportunities]

So there's a lot of these related interrelated disciplines, fields that you assigned, if you can go with a geoscience degree, that natural science resource managers. So it's with a geoscience degree, you can probably get into any field that you want to.

Venkat Raman  3:46

These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Venkat Raman  3:58

Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire Geology podcast with Prof. Bhattacharyya.

So without further ado, here is Prof. Juk Bhattacharyya!


Venkat Raman  4:08  

So if you're ready, we can jump right in.

Juk B  4:10  

Sure. I'm good.

Venkat Raman  4:13  

Fantastic. Okay, let's start with a basic question. What is Geology?

Juk B  4:20  [What is Geology?]

Geology is very broadly the study of our planet Earth. So it's very broadly and when you say study of planet Earth, everybody says what about the planet Earth that What are you studying here?

 So a lot of people think geology is just the study of rocks. So looking at rocks, rocks is one aspect of it. But we look at how the planet formed our planet form the planetary system, sun, the other outer planets in our planets, and then take it on to how the galaxy and other things formed. So that's a really broad scale. Yeah.

And what drives the planet? So we talk about Plate Tectonics? How did the oceans form? The continents form? How did life start on Earth? And how did life continue since the studying as unicellular little organisms to today with all the diversity? How do we know about the fossil records and the geologic history? What happened since the first, the planet is most collided and formed the planet? And then what happened? So it's kind of a story.

And we also look at the mechanisms of what the planet is doing, how the mountains are forming, and the natural hazards like, what makes an earthquake happen. What about volcanoes, tsunamis, landslides? So all these things, that the planet is making this happen on the surface? Like how do the water go from river to ocean to underground? And how do they cycle through all the systems? How do, how do these different systems interact? So life shapes, art, all shapes life? How do how do they play off of each other?

And in practical aspects, geology, geologists also study mineral resources. So where do you go to dig for certain minerals like oil and gases, obviously, but what about the minerals that make computers for happen? So the critical elements, critical minerals that drives in information technology, the rare earths the all those materials that make up the resources that we use for our way of life like metals? Where do you get iron from? Where do we get aluminum from?

All these are what geologists study, and there are aspects of geology that goes beyond the basic studying, or you also look for what the implications for what might happen when some regions don't have any water. Right, resolve these issues. And climate change is another huge driving factor driving force that is doing look making a lot of geologists think about solving. What are the implications?

How do we address climate change issues? What happens when temperature goes up? So it's anything and everything that has to do with our planet? life on planet. So Geology is the can be applied to any discipline, basically.

Venkat Raman  7:57  

How far back in time did human beings start practicing Geology or studying the science. And what did we do and give us a brief history.

Juk B  8:11  [The Origins]

So if you start thinking about it, human beings started to look at Geology when they picked up the first rock to kill an animal. So you have to know how a rock behaves. If you're trying to make stone tools, for example, not every rock will act the same when you're hitting one with another. Not every type of rock would keep an edge. So if you have Flintstone, you have obsidian that can be used for arrowheads and stone tools. But a sand stone will not act like that. So it's gonna go really far back the moment human beings started using rocks as resources.

You look at the first earliest geologists coming, becoming a valued member of their society. You need to find rocks that you can have caves in. Not every rock will make a cave. So you need to know where to go to find shelter. How do you make make your weapons and also how to navigate yourself? So during the Ice Age, the human beings migrated from Europe to North America. But they had to follow something. So you have to navigate looking at stars, looking at landforms and the people who lead the groups had to have some geoscience spatial knowledge because navigation is what we do with GPS. That's a big part of the sciences making maps. So all these knowledge were essential from the very get go.

We have evidence of old mining sites. So copper, you think of after Stone Age, you become Bronze Age and Iron Age Summit. To find those metals and melt them and figure out how to use them in actual tools and weapons, right? So those were the earliest geologists, man, you need to have that kind of knowledge to make society move forward.

So when you say the history of geology, we are going back to the earliest stages of human civilization, where, well, they didn't have systematic studies, or you don't have any record of that. I don't know if there was a geology university or something. You know what I mean? Yeah, but that knowledge had to be transferred somehow, like that a teacher teaching students how to figure out rocks or different properties of rock, what kind of observations do you make? How do you figure out where to find water? When you're traveling? That's the hydrology knowledge that you need, or how do you the find a cave, find your way around with using only stars.

So those are the, I'd say, I'm not biased, even though I study this, but the earliest human civilization needed to have some knowledge of geology, in a very systemic systematic way to pass on from one generation to another, for the very survival of their society.

But geology, the study of it as we know it, that started I think, in the 16th, the 1700s. So people were looking at, like, the rocks, the looking at fossils, they look at, find out where the fossils come from, they looked at rocks, layers, so people earliest, the, not the earliest, the earlier Geology studies were in the 1700s.

Juk B  12:03  

So people like William Smith, who was a mine surveyor for mining, the coal mining, and needed to figure out how to find the same layer of rock at different areas, and eventually ended up making the first geologic map. And that was in the 1700s.

And then James Hutton, who was considered the Father of Geology, he was in the 1700s, as well, he came up with the concepts of that if you have processes that are happening today, like sand being deposited on beaches, that same processes, or acted way back when in the past. So if you study the processes that you see today, that will tell you what happened in the past and interpret past environments.

So he came up with the concept of present is the key to the past. And he started looking at the whole concept of geologic time, that time is not limited, it's not like just 10,000 years or 5000 years, time is infinite. You can go back and back and back. And that is no evidence, no sign of time, being like, you can't see the end of it, you cannot start the one at one single point. That's the beginning. And at his time, that was a revolutionary thought that time can be much, much more longer than what was being taught at that time that art is only about 6000 years old.

So that those kinds of geologic thought Charles Darwin, the whole concept of evolution, which is one of the fundamental concepts of the geologic history, like fossil record, so he's also another contributor to the geology from biology and evolution. side. So the 16, 1700s were in we can say that geology was studied as a separate branch, but it was never one of those accepted, you know, hard, hard and fast, traditional sciences. People look at mathematics and astronomy and biology, like life sciences as philosophies, you know that you go to a university and study a brand Natural Science brand and philosophy and sit in a sit in an office and talk about those natural sciences.

Geology was mostly in the field. So people looking for the coal mine seems people just looking at rocks and figuring out thinking about what are they so a lot of the geology concepts did not come from traditional official studies in a laboratory or a university. It came from fieldwork, people who barely knew barely had an university degree, but came up with the fundamental concepts that shaped the geology that we do today. So it's mostly a practical application of Applied Science, the way I see it, they're called jobbers and ditch diggers. Geologists are not very respected early on. But well, we contribute to every aspect of society. So we created care about whether that people respect us or not, you can't live without us.

Venkat Raman  15:52  

Why is Geology important? And I think in a lot of ways, you just said why, you know, it's really is sort of explains how things work together and how Earth exists. Is there any other main reason, other than those, to sort of point out why Geology is so important?

Juk B  16:15  [Why is Geology Important?]

Have you drank water lately?

Venkat Raman  16:21  

Yes, from a lot of different places,

Juk B  16:24  

yeah. If you need things like water for your survival, or you need metals for your daily life, or if you need if you use any of the other. You know, if you're using things that are not grown on plants, or don't come from animals, you're using gr in some way. So if you're, even if you're doing agriculture, you need metals and oil and petroleum and energy to drive a tractor, or digger from the ground or store your food. So anytime you're using some kind of something, anything that's, that does not come from either plants or animals you're using. And geologists are useful, important, both for extracting your resources, like the metals and energy resources, and also for taking care of the environment of what happens before, during and after you extract the resources.

So you send a geologist to make sure that mine waste products are not dumped in an environmentally sensitive areas, or that doesn't pollute your water or soil in a way that people can't use that anymore. So geologists help taking materials out of the ground. And also make sure that that whole action helps the mind site to heal and to not be polluted beyond the remediation. So got it. Geologists also used your one geologist to take a look at natural hazards.

So you are in California, you know about earthquakes, right? Yes, absolutely. And you need to when to evacuate, where not to build, how to build your houses, so they don't fall off. What to do when an earthquake hit. Geologists or people who are studying those natural hazards like volcanic eruption, somebody has to monitor it, somebody has to tell people what to do when a volcano erupts. When not to go, how to evacuate. So Earthquakes Natural hazards, wildfire is another area that geologists and geoscientists rather are involved in. So geologists are some of the people who are at the forefront of whenever disaster strikes, they go.

So anywhere you have a landslide, you have geologists are looking at monitoring it. They're trying to address it. Anywhere you have a tsunami, you have God geologists jumping in, to provide information, what's going on how not what to do what not to do? So it's, again, if you're looking at a society that's, that's functional, that want to live on this planet in a sustainable manner, you need your scientists

Venkat Raman  19:38  

got it.

Venkat Raman  19:43  

Let's switch gears a little bit. So how is the study of Geology organized? What are the different branches? How is it practiced?

Juk B  19:54  [Branches of Geology]

So the different branches of Geology, classic branches could be study of fossils that is Paleontology, study of past life, then study of the rocks, that's petrology study of minerals, that's Mineralogy, study of the rock formations like mountains and other things that are structural geology. And then you have other branches like Geomorphology, that study of landforms. You have Hydrology, that study of what the water, that can be rivers and groundwater. You have the study of soil, that soil scientist, the study of the fossil fuels, that's a whole different branch of geoscientists. And then you there are combination disciplines like Geophysicists who study the physics of this planet, Geochemists that the study that they apply chemistry to study this planet, you have Geobiologists, the same way of studying the biology of life forms, and in a planetary context.

And then you have the Planetary Geologist, the study the other planets besides our planet, so Venus, Mars, Moon, other planets. They're also Oceanographers, or Ocean scientists. So they study what's the bottom of the ocean, how life behaves in the ocean, that's a whole different category of the geoscience altogether, Atmospheric scientists, that is the science of the atmosphere. So the climate scientist is part of that atmospheric scientists. So then you can go to the subcategories of how different branches interact. Because in Geology, you can't just be in separate silos, you can just say, I'm only going to look at this piece, only when I look at minerals, and not look at rocks, or I'm going to only look at the physical structure of things, but not know anything about the chemistry of it. So there is no way you can separate the branches out there is also stratigraphy, looking at rock layers.

To figure out the history of the planet. You can come up with lots of different branches of geo geology that fits in different niche. But basic main ones and yes, this is very interdisciplinary geology is we don't even call it geology anymore. Try to refer to as geoscience. Focus on the interdisciplinary aspect of geology.

Geoscience is everything and how they connect together. So geophysics, geology, geochemistry, geo biology, there is a such a thing as pure math, geo mathematics and geo health. So yeah, those are new disciplines coming up.

Venkat Raman  23:09  

If you will to look back at the last maybe 50 years, just to give it a long time frame. What are some significant I don't know what to call it discoveries or learnings from geology that we have achieved?

Juk B  23:27  [Key Discoveries]

Some of the biggest discoveries in the geosciences how, how old or how the how old the planet is, is a big one. Just the fact that we are talking about a planet that is 4.6 billion years old. Just to get that number. Yeah, huge. It took a long time, a lot of work. And to come up with that number. We're still looking at it. But that's where we are right now. Sure. Just looking at the geology column of all the different levels of what happened and all the thoughts and ideas and evidence that it can see.

Plate tectonics that was in like right around, Plate tectonics became a theory in the 1980s. But that was the theory that binds all the Geology branches together. That's a fundamental arch theory that how do flat plates move and how do they recycle themselves? How do they cause earthquakes and volcanic isms and other things? What are what are the mechanisms and the dynamics that's happening in the Plate Tectonics area? So I'd say that's the fundamental, the big discovery in the geosciences that provided the framework of everything that's happening on this planet like we can talk about it in the framework of plate tectonics. So that was another huge fundamental discovery in like, that's relatively recent, actually, we are still looking at it, we are still studying it and trying to figure out every single detail but flick tonics is about the same level as the theory of evolution for biology.

Venkat Raman  25:32  

Let's talk a little bit about how does one go about approaching this, you know, start with this idea of what competencies or what background do students need, entering college to pursue geosciences, as you called it?

Juk B  25:51  [What’s Needed to Pursue Geoscience?]

Students can start Geoscience at any age. I just went to a preschool with rocks. They have I took samples that I take gave my college students, and the little kids are fine looking at igneous rocks and volcanic glass and metamorphic rocks. They had their little hand glances and looking at mineral frames, arrangements and things. And they're drawing pictures. So it was fun it was, but that's something they started pretty early on.

So the basic competencies that you need in high school for getting into geosciences, you need some, a little bit of physics and chemistry is really good.

Yeah, a little bit of physics. I mean, like when you're talking about some of the terminology. For example, if we talk about the atoms and molecules, and those things you need to know, you need to understand what those are. When you talk about gravity, you need to know that what that is force, the momentum, those things, you need to kind of have an idea what am I talking about in class.

You have some understanding of the periodic table. So when you talk about silicone oxygen tetrahedron, you are not going to completely What are you talking about? You can, if I show you a periodic table, you need to know okay, that's group and that's a period and those are elements. So again, the elements and compounds, what are those? How do a molecule behave like, you know, covalent, bonding, ionic bonding, I think those are covered in high school, eight meters. So that kind of background is would be good.

How to measure things, you know, in Maths like radius versus diameter, if I say it's an equilateral triangle, what that even is, how do you use angles? How do you measure distances? So those things again, that's basic geometry and basic, you know, design drawing? Yeah. We, we do use a lot of math, but not until you become like, upper level senior, or you're actually working for, like in your thesis or research like that, when you start out? Basic, if I give you a fraction in should be able to understand what that is like, how do you get decimal points and fractions and, you know, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, calculus is more important later on. geometry. And statistics are more important in the early classes, like the basic classes, looking at a graph and figuring out what that means, like how do X and Y relates with each other? That's a fundamental skill that they expect that if I give you a give you a graph like radioactive decay, exponential decay happening, so can you how many half lives have gone by for whatever the parent daughter ratio is? Sure.

So interpreting graph is a scale that would be helpful to have before you come to a geology class. But basically, like these are my I'm talking about my introductory geology student, my introduction to geology course. That's something what I look for when I come into students come in. And so that's something that all students should have for any science basically. Sure, for it's not just geology, so basic background in any kind of science. They do have AP art science courses, if you are into geology Take some of the AP courses. You're great. You'll be one of my top students.

Venkat Raman  30:05  

Okay. So but now, yeah, go ahead.

Juk B  30:11  

Otherwise, it's, it's a science that can be taught at any level. So I can talk about, I have taught Plate Tectonics to fourth graders and fifth graders. And I still teach plate tectonics to my upper level students. So it doesn't matter, we scale, scale it up or scale it down in terms of students understanding and comprehension.

Venkat Raman  30:39  

So are students, when they apply, they'd apply for a major like geology. And they can get started, from what you're saying, right in their freshman year. And gradually go through the upper classes, expanding out the discipline, right? And is it a good idea to do cross disciplinary things? I mean, you know, talking to your students seemed like, they were doing physics and geology. And you know, people had sort of different multiple disciplines that they were multiple majors, if not major, major, minor. So that's, is that recommended? Or is that a good thing to do?

Juk B  31:25  [The Need for Interdisciplinary Study]

We basically recommend that when you're doing a geology major, have one year of physics, one year of chemistry and one year of calc based maths. Okay, so that kind of comes out to like a physical science, minor classes and everything a little bit, if you're going into paleontology, into physics take a one year of biology. So that's kind of what we recommend that have that kind of background. On our campus, we kind of teach students GIS, or how to use geographic information system, which is really good scale for any kind of job opportunities that are coming up nowadays. For minors, we geology can be minor in anything I have students is minoring. In physics, our student minored in chemistry, mostly the minor in environmental studies, or a broader understanding of any of the environmental related topics, including human interaction with the environment, not just coming from the rock side, but also the side of the society, and how the society gets impacted or impacts the nonliving environment. So that's another minor that's highly recommended.

Venkat Raman  32:52  

What are the different career opportunities after a four year degree? Students.

Juk B  32:58  [Career Opportunities]

So I'm right now looking at a graph that came out in 2018. And that is about median annual salaries of Geoscience occupations. And I picked 2018 Because that was pre COVID COVID thing that we never really expected. The minimum salary the median salary, I can see is about 47k. And the maximum is about 141k.

So the minimum salary is life physical and social science technicians, which is not especially a geoscience degree, it's something that somebody that geoscience degree can have a job and maximum is engineering managers and petroleum engineers that those are making like 130k Plus, yeah.

So the other jobs that you have mining, petroleum engineering, geology, engineering, civil engineering, environmental engineering, those are the upper scale of the careers. Otherwise, outside of that you can be environmental scientists and mental consultants, people who look at soil and plant and water so hydrology soil scientist, you can have policy is a huge field for geoscientists. So you can go into government and do it, natural resource management and natural resource policymakers, people who are looking at the supply chain management for today right now.

So they're identifying what are the critical elements that they need for making the energy sector go green? So we're looking at semiconductor There's elements that you use to make batteries. So you need to know in order to have somebody who knows where those elements coming from, where do you go to mine them? How do you make sure that the mining is done safely and responsibly and sustainably?

And that's a whole branch of policy that's open for geoscientists because somebody needs to understand the science to tell the policymakers Okay, now we need to do this, to have a treaty with that country or not, don't destroy the rainforest, just because we need that element because these things might have long term impacts. So that's another whole branch of science policy that geoscience are very good at, then you have education sector.

So like me, call it post secondary teachers. That's another line of employment, that you have business owners. A lot of geoscientists get an MBA, and then have their own business like construction, mining, supply, exploration business, like they go out and look for materials. And natural hazard like your backyard is falling into the lake or ocean, you need somebody to fix it. And there's somebody better have a geoscientist on call.

So you know what not to do or where not to bend to civil engineering gets a lot of geoscientists in there. So there's a lot of these related, interrelated disciplines, fields that you assigned, if you can go with a geoscience degree, like natural science, resource managers.

So it's, with a geoscience degree, you can probably get into any field that you want to, you're not going to limit it to just one aspect, like accounting majors will only get jobs in accounting, right? Your science majors not so much they can go into any field and still be okay.

Venkat Raman  37:07  

What fraction of the students typically go to grad school versus take on jobs in geology?

Juk B  37:17  [Grad School vs Industry]

It totally depends on students. Yeah. Like in geoscience, we are on our campus. Yeah, the kind of strongly recommend students go to grad school, because a lot with a bachelor's degree, you will get a good job. But then moving on into careers, you might need a higher degree. So you might get an end up like a dead end job, or something like that. You might be a technician, but then it might get might be in an accident. And then what happens to you, you might need some other expertise or skills to move into a different job. So for our campus, most I'll say that about 30% of the students move on to grad school, but most get a job right? Right off the bat. But overall, geoscientist mostly get a master's degree, then move into the job field, with a master's degree and much more flexible. So you can pick where whichever field you want to be, and have a lot more options than with just a bachelor's degree. And if you want to move on to the education field, you can always come back and get a PhD with a master's. And then you can go into academia. But with a Master's, you can be in industry, you can go into academia, you can have your own career wherever you want to go. So that's a much more flexible degree. And that's kind of what we recommend that when you aren't a bachelor's degree, go for a graduate degree in masters get a master's degree. Fair enough. So one of the things though, for geology, more if you go into graduate school, you only go if your graduate program is paying you you do not pay for your own own education after your bachelor's. So, yeah, a lot of the other programs, other disciplines, you pay for your master's degree like social work. You have to pay your tuition and fees and have to take a student loan to get a master's degree. That's not the case. in the geosciences. So when you go to the grad school right now Brett like you will be talking with him soon, he got a full tuition waiver, a stipend for two years guaranteed for his master's program. So that's kind of what we expect. If the graduate school is not paying you, you don't go. It's almost like getting getting hired in a job, but you're getting trained for a job. And as a graduate student, you'll also work like as a teaching assistant or a research assistant. The money, it's not the award, you are walking for it, but you will have your own, you will be able to pay your way through, which is a case for our field.

Venkat Raman  40:51  

I want to kind of turn slightly different area now talk a little bit about yourself. You know, just listening to you. You're so much into geology that you know, it's not difficult to see that it's a huge passion. So you sort of outlined briefly how you gotten to it, but tell us tell us why. Why you are in geology. How did how did that happen?

Juk B  41:20  [Prof. Bhattacharyya’s Geology Journey]

It was an accident. Like I, when I was growing up, I had no idea what geology was. I seriously did not know that people studied rocks and call it work. I grew up in a city so I didn't have any like a lot of people grew up hunting camping, picking up rocks. I had no idea. I had a lot of breaks, but nothing natural. Yeah. So. So when, when I was growing up, like from my high school, that I if somebody asked me what I wanted to be, I wanted to be an engineer like my dad. Geology was nowhere in in my radar.

But what happened, a couple of things happened when I was just finishing my high school and going into college. One of them was I studied read, I got into a book. It's a kind of a book about like a spy thriller. But badly back light of era, he was a really good, popular author in the 1980s. Era. And that was about the protagonist was a marine geologist. And they are looking for manganese nodules from the ocean floor. And this guy's brother got murdered because of international spy drama, and they're trying to get that more nodules out. So it was a fast read. But one of the things that the guy said in the book like, oh, 10,000 years, that's recent. I was a history buff in high school and 10,000 years is not recent. All the civilizations that we know of are just about 5000 years or a little bit more than 5000 years. So if you're looking at 10,000 years, that's recent, then what is old by this guy, like what is really historic. So that kind of got me to think that is a discipline that goes past 10,000 years. I had no idea that art was that old or something? Sure. So that was my first kind of inkling of what that there is a discipline that's that looks at time in a very different way than anything I've read, or talked or looked at, in my full high school career. And then I kind of got just stumbled on to a geology textbook. Just look at I went to a library that's just trying to figure out what geology is. Somebody suggested that Oh, you don't want to do engineering give geology a chance. I'm like, What the heck is that? By the way I hated geography. Student. So like, I'm not going to do geography. No, it's different. How is it different? So I can I looked into a textbook, and there was some three dimensional drawing of a fault plane fault plane that causes earthquakes. That got me totally hooked. It had everything that I've ever liked. It was all about physics. It was all about three dimensional geometry. It was history. It was like a combination of all my favorite disciplines in one chapter. Like everything that I've ever wanted to do, so it was not scattered all over. So okay, I'm doing geology because in high school you kind of try to figure out what do you really like and you like this you like history you like they know Looking at, like math, and you like drawing and you like physics, and you need to pick one direction to go, now you can decide which direction to go. But this is like a one size fits all, like, everything is like in one package that somebody has. And then, of course, when college, I went my first field trip, Geology field trip, and I was hooked. This is a discipline that takes me outside and makes me walk in rocks and go into rivers. And, again, everything I ever wanted to be like, I wanted to be an explorer, you know, like Robinson Crusoe, or look at. So this is like, I get to go hike and call it walk and get paid for it. I mean, you can take me out of geology now.

Venkat Raman  45:54  

That's fantastic. That's fantastic.

Venkat Raman  46:00  

You know, I see that you were very interested in geology, and you studied it, and you were totally into it. Now, did you, at any point realize that you were really good at it? Or is it just that you were so consumed by the interest that it just propelled you forward?

Juk B  46:16  

No, actually, I did realize at one point as good at it, when I could, I saw that I needed to visualize things in 3d. So I, that's something geologists have to do. Like, you have to visualize not just the top surface, but the entire three dimensional object in your head, and see how you rotate things in space and how the different orientations change, or look at a surface map and interpret what's happening underground. Right. Now, one, that when I was doing my undergraduate degree, I got my undergraduate and master's degree in India. Yeah. So when we have been studying structural geology, that's about the shape of rocks, when they get folded or faulted. Yeah. And people have to kind of understand the three dimensional three dimensionality of the structures. So when you have a fold, how do different parts of the fold relate to each other? And if you do that in your head, right, and I realized that I can do that much better than anybody else in my class. So I started teaching them, how am I doing it in my head? So basically, you will have study sessions, and I'll help and make up models and have people see and look and okay, this is how you're doing it. This is how you should be visualizing it. And at that point, I realized no, no, this is I'm not just interested, but I'm actually good at it.

Venkat Raman  47:54  

That's fantastic. Anything. No, that's, that's fantastic. Because it's difficult to have an aha moment and for you, something very discreet and clear is just as amazing.

Venkat Raman  48:13  

Okay, so I'm going to leave you with one question, then you probably have 1000 things that satisfy you. In geology. If we were to pick the one thing, that's the most satisfying thing, you know, being in this discipline practicing geosciences, what would that be?

Juk B  48:32  

You mentioned the aha moment. Yeah, I get to see the aha moment in, in my students, that's when somebody is struggling and trying to figure out and all of a sudden, oh, I get it now. And that, oh, the aha moment. When that light, the light bulb just glows in a student's face. And they, they're invincible from that point onwards. Just in that moment, just watching that moment is a best of everything that I do as a geologist. Nothing comes close.

Venkat Raman  49:09  

Fantastic. So Juk, this has been exhilarating. I must say this is fascinating. I love the way you described what geosciences is, the way you talked about all the different aspects. And I can see why you're passionate and excited every morning. So thank you so much for sharing all that. And hopefully this serves as a great inspiration to all the high schoolers out there. So I'm sure we'll talk more and I love looking forward to talking to your students. So for right now, take care be safe.

Juk B  49:45  

Thank you, you too.

Venkat Raman  49:47  

Bye bye


Venkat  49:54

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast on Geology with Professor Juk Bhattacharyya of UW Whitewater.

Prof Bhattacharyya  gives us a great overview of Geology, its importance to society, civilization, humanity, career opportunities, and skills to pursue undergraduate study.

I hope this podcast inspires you to learn more about Geology or Geoscience as a major.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io] with the Subject: Geology.

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

Podcast for High Schoolers, College Major, College Majors Podcast, US Colleges, Primer for High Schoolers, Geology, What is Geology, Geoscience, University of Wisconsin Whitewater, UW Whitewater, Plate Tectonics, Age of the Earth, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry.

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