Uindy Earth-Space Science Students Unearth New Passions with Paleontology Minor – The Reflector

Uindy Earth-Space Science Students Unearth New Passions with Paleontology Minor – The Reflector

The story of the prehistoric world can now be discovered through a new minor recently implemented by The University of Indianapolis Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences according to You Indy. This past summer, a paleontology minor was added as an option according to You Indy, and the 21-credit minor falls under the earth-space science coursework, according to the UIndy Registrar’s Office. Those interested in adding the minor or who have questions can email Assistant Professor of earth-space science Nick Soltis, according to the Registrar’s Office. Although the courses have been offered, Soltis said this was a way for people to specialize in this specific interest.

“The paleontology minor is brand new this year,” Soltis said. “All the courses have been offered in the past. It’s a mix of biology courses and earth-space science, geology-type courses. But the minor curated those, so people who are interested would know what classes to take and would be the most relevant if you did want to go on to graduate school or pursue paleontology down the road.”

According to Soltis, paleontology is interdisciplinary, and the minor requires coursework that may seem surprising. Soltis said it offers a structure to help two types of students who want to specialize in paleontology: those who are already majoring in earth-space science or those who have an interest in paleontology.

“I noticed we had a lot of students who are interested in paleontology, both within earth-space science and also a little bit in archaeology,” Soltis said. “And then students of the general interest like dinosaurs and past life and fossils in general … We also saw it as a way to bring in students who might be exploring majors or students who [are] doing something else.”

According to senior earth-space science major Spencer Shroyer, his pathway to get to his final year was an exploration of what he is passionate about. Even though he started at UIndy on the pre-physical therapy track, Shroyer said he did not like the required courses. When discussing future options after dropping his pre-physical therapy minor, Shroyer said he remembered always being a fan of dinosaurs.

“I was a huge dinosaur kid, I would watch a bunch of dinosaur documentaries,” Shroyer said. “One year my dad got me this whole DVD set of dinosaur documentaries, and I would watch them all the time. And I love going to natural history museums. I grew up in Cincinnati and whenever my grandpa would watch me, we’d go there and then we’d spend probably way too long in there. But, my grandpa would sit around while I would look at everything and it was amazing. And so I [thought], ‘I think I really wanna go down the paleontology route.’”

Senior earth-space science major Connor Epler said his passion for his major is also one that has followed him since childhood. Additionally, this new minor implementation adjusted his plans for his senior year, he said.

“It had a really big effect because I was going to graduate, or at least be done with my major last year in 2023, and I was going to be a part-time student to finish up my senior research throughout this year …” Epler said. “It was a pretty big switch for me and changed my trajectory because I ended up shifting my focus from my research and maybe doing internships to wanting to get this minor and fill that out as well. I’m glad I did because it’s been probably the most enjoyable year of classes that I’ve had so far.”

Senior earth-Space Major Joshua Gamble had a different origin story for deciding his major, he said. Coming to college, he was asked to pick a major, so he picked earth-space science to pursue astronomy, Gamble said. However, Gamble said he took it for the space aspect but fell in love with the rocks and fossils aspect of it, also having to adjust his schedule for the new course requirements for the paleontology minor.

“I was supposed to have a really easy senior year, and I had to add a few things that I wasn’t pumped about, but I really ended up loving those classes,” Gamble said. “It’s probably provided a new perspective because I mean, through it, every aspect of even earth-space science, you can walk around outside and get a new appreciation for everything around you and understand the world that you live in. And that’s my favorite part about the major is if I ended up doing a job later in life, that has nothing to do with earth-space science or paleontology or geology, I can still say I got more from it than I could have hoped for because I can look around and understand the world that I live in.”

This past summer, Shroyer said he interned at the Children’s Museum. Working on fossils and talking to curious visitors, he was able to share his knowledge and get experience in the field he was interested in, according to You Indy. Despite having guaranteed admittance into the master’s program for physical therapy, Shroyer went with the path that followed his passion and he said he has similar beliefs about his future career path.

“I’m definitely grateful for it because, yes, there was a lot of stability and certainty with the three plus three, but the fact is that I’ve been able to do so much with this major and all my minors and this department,” Shroyer said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I don’t know, it was hard to get away from it. And especially now because I applied to grad school, and I’m still waiting to hear from three or four and it’s a month from graduation. But, even if I don’t get in anywhere, I still wouldn’t change it for the world. I would do it all over again. I’ve enjoyed myself so much.”

Photo by Breanna Emmett Senior paleontology minors Joshua Gamble, Connor Epler, and Spencer Shroyer examine rock specimens in the Rock and Mineral Lab. Epler, Shroyer and Gamble will be some of the first UIndy students to graduate with the paleontology minor.

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