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Meet Kelly Rozanitis

Kelly Rozanitis, Drexel Geoscience Major

Degree: BS Geoscience ’19
-Curatorial Assistant, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (two co-op cycles)
- Hydrogeologist, American Water
Extracurricular activities: President, Geology and Paleontology Club; College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Board
Awards: Aventis Scholarship

What motivates you?

We live in a time in which science, and especially environmental sciences, are more important than ever. We are facing a climate crisis and experiencing issues with biodiversity and environmental disasters, which are becoming more and more common. As a young scientist, I think it is crucial to be well educated and trained so that the scientific community as a whole can continue to devise innovative solutions to global issues. I am motivated by the need for rigorous science and solutions to ensure that the Earth continues to be a good home and serve humanity well.

What were some of your most memorable travel experiences through Drexel?

Last summer, I was offered a position as a teaching assistant for my department’s GeoDESLA program, a weeklong summer camp for rising high school juniors and seniors that introduces them to the realm of earth sciences. As part of this program, I got to travel to Red Lodge, Montana and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The western U.S. is an incredible part of the country, and until last summer, I had never been west of the Mississippi River. I was able to spend a week fully immersed in what I loved, and got to see some of the most beautiful geologic features our country has to offer. I was also able to share my knowledge with students who, like myself, did not have exposure to geology in high school and were not necessarily aware of the career options in the field. Between the absolutely beautiful landscapes and the incredible attitudes and hard work of the students, it was easily my most memorable travel experience through Drexel.

How were your co-op experiences?

Amazing! My first two co-ops were in the Vertebrate Paleontology collection at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and I was like a kid in a candy store every day at work. The biggest part of my job was curatorial work, where I was responsible for organizing and digitizing existing collections, as well as working with new collections that had to be curated from start to finish.

My biggest project was working with over 500 pounds of fossil-bearing rock that Dr. Ted Daeschler brought to the Academy from his work in Antarctica. It was my job to carefully unpack all of this material from their toilet-paper cocoons and prepare, number, label and organize over 600 specimens that are now forever a part of the Vertebrate Paleontology collection. Museum collections have to be well organized — with accurate information in the database and no duplicate numbers — to serve their purpose to science and be easily accessible to researchers. I learned skills to make a well-functioning museum collection and fell in love with museum work as a whole. I don’t believe I would have gotten experiences like this if it were not for Drexel’s Co-op program.

What about your third co-op?

For my third co-op, I wanted to explore some of the different options in the geosciences, and was hired as a hydrogeologist for American Water. This was an experience that was completely out of my wheelhouse, but incredibly valuable. I learned so much about water as a resource, and how it goes from underground aquifers or rivers to our taps, with many steps between. I was present for various aquifer tests, and toward the end of my co-op, I even supervised a step-test (which involves pumping a drinking water well at various rates to determine how much water can safely be removed without stressing the aquifer or creating water quality issues) completely on my own.

Finally, I was able to be part of the installation of a new drinking water well. I was exposed to the very long and complicated logistical process (like siting the well, getting the necessary permits, hiring a drilling company, etc. …), as well as the physical process: drilling a 160-foot hole in the ground, recording the various sediment types that come up from the borehole, and ensuring that the installed well meets all safety requirements and is built correctly. This was a wildly new experience for me, with most of my experience being in academics. However, it gave me an entirely new set of tools to add to my repertoire.

What is the coolest thing you can do at the Academy?

Pretty much everything you can do at the Academy is cool! The public part of the museum is so much fun and has so much history. The dioramas are so beautiful (my favorite is the Takin), and I absolutely love the library at the Academy.

My favorite part of the Academy, and the part I think is the coolest, is definitely the collections. The collections managers are all willing and happy to show the collections off, and there are plenty of opportunities to see them through Members’ Nights, classes and club events. The Academy houses many pieces that are significant both scientifically and historically. The oldest mounted dinosaur is at the Academy, along with fossils that were collected for U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. There is material from Lewis and Clark, and some really remarkable minerals. I think seeing the collections is easily the coolest thing you can do at the Academy.

What has made your experience at Drexel special or unique?

I think my variety of experiences has made my time at Drexel so unique. I’ve had opportunities that I would never have thought of five years ago. I got a chance to work in the oldest natural history museum in the Western Hemisphere, where I sat next to Thomas Jefferson’s fossil collection. I worked in a corporate setting for a water utility provider and learned exactly what goes in to providing clean drinking water. I had the privilege of teaching high school students about all aspects of geology, from water wells to digging up massive dinosaurs. Each of these experiences on their own are completely unique and special to me, and I still find it hard to believe that I’ve had the chance to do so many cool things!

Why would you recommend the BEES program at Drexel for undergraduates?

I would recommend the BEES program for a multitude of reasons. The faculty in the department are some of the most incredible people I have ever met. All are experts in their fields, and being a smaller department means that we are able to develop much closer relationships with our instructors. In most of my classes, the instructors know most, if not all, of the students personally. The faculty are more than willing to help students with research or career advice, and the department as a whole is very close knit.

Aside from excellent instructors, who doesn’t love having class outside?! Because much of the information we are learning has real-world roots or applications, the curriculum is designed to expose us to the fieldwork element of our disciplines right from the start. Labs and field classes are frequently outside, and we get the opportunity to not only learn techniques necessary for successful fieldwork, but also to explore some really cool local areas. The field methods classes have been some of my favorite during my time at Drexel