“I love my job. The undergraduates in our department at the University of Puerto Rico are all required to do two semesters of undergraduate research on a project of their choosing partnered with a faculty advisor. My favorite part of teaching is being an advisor for these research students.
A lot of them are really enthusiastic and really excited, but they are also nervous about doing a good job. I tell them that everybody is nervous, to just try and do their best, and usually everything turns out great. I've taken undergraduate students to professional meetings where they have presented their results, and despite their nerves, most of them do a fabulous job! I really enjoy mentoring such bright minds.
When I was a sophomore in college, I took a geology class that took us to Arizona over spring break. I loved it, we went to the Grand Canyon and a bunch of other sites.
Exactly ten years later, in 2017, I had the opportunity to take undergraduates on a similar trip, this time as a professor. We organized a week-long departmental field trip, with 3 professors and 22 students, to Arizona and New Mexico. We visited a lot of classic Southwest geological sites, such as the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest National Park, and Valles Caldera. It was pretty special seeing the students have that pivotal ‘Holy crap, this is awesome, I want to do this!’ moment like I had, a decade earlier.”
Stephen Hughes is an assistant professor in the geology department at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez, where he teaches and studies structural geology, geomorphology, and their applications to tectonics.
Hughes participated in the March 2017 Synthesis Workshop on the evolution of the Southern Appalachian Lithosphere.
—by Sara Tewksbury