geofyrst program nurtures future scientists

The week before the start of the fall semester, five freshmen took part in GeoFyrst, a six-day geology camping trip for new students. Accompanied by three faculty from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, the students saw a variety of geological processes in New York and Massachusetts, including dinosaur tracks, cliffs and beach erosion.

Now in its seventh year, GeoFyrst gives freshmen their first real field experience—and a chance to bond with other new students, faculty and upperclassmen while hiking, setting up tents and roasting marshmallows.

The program has been highly successful in its goal of recruiting more earth science majors, particularly women. Half of the students in the first three groups went on to graduate with degrees in the geosciences, and 66 percent of the participants were women. As an added, and somewhat unexpected, benefit, at least half of the freshmen who participated in the first two GeoFyrst trips went on to become high achievers, presenting research at national conferences, taking on leadership roles in science-related co-curricular clubs on campus, and winning competitive awards and research grants.

Assistant Professor Leigh Fall explains the geology of Vroman's Nose, a cliff in Middleburgh, NY.
Photo by Michael Forster Rothbart

 

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