“Digging” for his future profession
Senior Donald Morgan is looking at paleontology graduate programs.
To get a doctorate is almost a requirement to become a professional paleontologist, a person who studies fossil animals and plants.
And most programs are very competitive.
Currently Morgan is awaiting an interview for a program, which he received a letter back from, that only accepts two students per year.
“I could be one of five or one of 20[being interviewed],” he said.
But he is comforted by the fact that he can add prior experience with his hands-on internship at the Calvert Marine Museum to his resume.
“The more you have in your application the better off you are,” he said.
Morgan said that paleontology graduate programs aren’t that easily found.
There’s only one in Maryland at Johns Hopkins University.
“Right now I’m applying to grad schools and that [an internship] is a major component of the letter to your prospective grad advisors,” he said. “A lot of paleontology programs require you’ve had sort of past experience in the field.”
A career in paleontology isn’t impossible without a doctorate, he said. But it would be difficult to go far without one.
Morgan said he got the summer internship after applying to three different organizations, and the one he landed was one he had a connection with through a Fossil Club the museum offered.
Students should join clubs at organizations they’re interested in working for and read journals to become familiar with people’s work, he said.
“It would be a pretty good idea to get on a name to name basis,” Morgan said. “Be proactive.”
For paleontology specifically, emailing the curators helps and they won’t turn you away because they want to spread their knowledge, he said.
Towson doesn’t have a specific paleontology program so Morgan is a biology major.
His advisor helped him with deciding which major was best for what he wants to do after college.
“It [paleontology] crosses fields of bio, geology and chemistry,” he said. “It’s a heavy dose of material to go through and usually a doctorate degree is preferred. It really did help me going to Dr. Siegel, who was my advisor, and talking to him about my future plan. He’s the one who pushed me to start the biology major.”
Morgan also said it’s important to have a good reputation with University advisors and try to be on a first-name basis.
Even internships look at grades. Morgan said that the internship opened a lot of doors for him and was different than just reading about something in a book.
“Actually giving you the chance to work with an actual specimen makes a huge difference,” he said.