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Interview with Andrew Zuza

Andrew Zuza— Geology ’10, Cornell ‘11

Research Project: Ready, Aim, Fire!: Controls on Mount Ngauruhoe’s eruption style

Andrew is currently a PhD student at UCLA

Why did you choose Frontiers Abroad?
I heard about Frontiers Abroad from a friend who went to Pomona College. I wanted to study abroad, and New Zealand was high on my list. After some investigation, FA was clearly the best option because it included a 5-week field study, a unique and individual semester-long research program based on work done during the field study, and a semester of study at the University of Canterbury. No other program has so much to offer.

Was the Frontiers Abroad experience what you expected?
It was more than expected. I expected the program to be little more than a fun romp in New Zealand but it was much more. I had a lot of fun, but more importantly, I made many connections (personal and in the geology field) and was exposed to the research process.

What was your favourite part of Frontiers Abroad?
My favorite part of the field component was that we travelled around to tons of different places, each with unique geology. Some other “field camps” spend weeks intensively mapping just one area, but FA took advantage of the diverse and beautiful NZ scenery. We were able to see and experience so much. During the semester, the research projects were awesome because we were able to integrate ourselves into the department and participate first-hand in the research process.

What was your favourite aspect of New Zealand?
It is hard to say. It was essentially the combination of the beautiful and varied natural scenery, the amazing locals, the fun and adventurous study-abroad students, and the overall travel-oriented and adventurous mind-set that embodies the whole country.

How did Frontiers Abroad contribute to your career goals / pathway?
The FA program showed me that I wanted to continue my studies of geology into graduate school. It exposed me to research experience, extensive field geology, and awesome faculty/graduate students. More significantly, I was able to interact with the entire geology department throughout the semester–almost on the level of a graduate student–and I could clearly tell that I fit into the “graduate student” lifestyle. I attribute a lot of my current graduate school situation (i.e., one that I love) to this program. There were less outside distractions at UC, as opposed to my home institution, so I was able to see what it is like to be deeply rooted in a geology department.

What aspects of the Frontiers Abroad experience did you see as defining moments / achievements?
It was great to see all of us bring our individual research projects to completion. Throughout the semester, we all bounced ideas off each other, and gradually built our projects into real contributions for understanding different aspects of Mt. Ngauruhoe. Also, throughout the field study, it was great to learn about and see such varied geology. Most of it I had not seen, except in textbooks.

How did Frontiers Abroad prepare you for future endeavours?
It exposed me to varied field geology, which is extremely important. Now when I go into the field, I have more “tools” in my belt. I have seen many more examples of geologic events and features, and can recognize and interpret them much more efficiently. NZ has most geologic features that one learns about in the classroom. Additionally, the research component of the program prepared me for the research process. I have learned everything from how to deal with the frustration as one gets stuck in their research, the rewards associated with creating knowledge, and the many steps in between. I also developed and was exposed to a network of great geologists. It was extremely beneficial to have to work with many “colleagues” throughout my FA experience.

In a few words discuss what you have achieved since Frontiers Abroad, and the influence Frontiers Abroad has had on your accomplishments.
After Frontiers Abroad, I went on to continue my students in geology at Cornell University. I went to conduct research in Mongolia as part of a Keck Consortium group and wrote up a Honors Thesis entitled: “Late Cenozoic Volcanism in the Hovsgol Rift Basin: Source, Genesis, and Evolution of Intraplate Volcanism in Mongolia.” I was able to get several grants and awards for this research. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with distinction in research from Cornell University in 2011 and won some miscellaneous awards during my senior year. Much of what I achieved between the FA program and my graduation from Cornell can be attributed to Frontiers Abroad. As mentioned above, I benefited from being involved in research and working with diverse individuals, but I also know that the program boosted my confidence in the field of geology, allowing me to essentially be a better geologist. I was able to write good proposals for funding, do well in the remainder of my classes, and confidently apply to graduate school. Beforehand, I was slightly wishy-washy in what I wanted, but FA allowed my to have a clear focus. The entire experience was awesome and extremely beneficial.