Q&A with a Geology Major

By Siena Swift ’23

Dede and her dad with Bert & Rocky's ice creamThis week I interviewed Bert & Rocky’s-loving Dede Chapline ‘23, who is one half of the iconic snake mom, OKC superstars duo with last week’s interviewee Lilly Haave (see “Q&A with a Transfer Student” for further explanation). This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Q: Can you please introduce yourself?

A: My name is Dede, I’m a rising junior at Pomona college, and I’m a geology major. I’m from Oklahoma City, OK — horns down! I took a year off from school during the pandemic. On campus, I am a tour guide, which I love. I have worked as a mentor in the math department and this fall, I’ll be the mentor for an introductory geology course. As a geology liaison, I’m also basically a go-between for students and faculty in the department. I organize a lot of social events for the departments and work with professors to get colloquia set up. I will also be an EcoRep for the Sustainability Integration Office in the fall. 

Q: Why did you choose to attend Pomona?

A: I always wanted to go out of state for college, specifically west. I kind of ignored the advice I got — that location doesn’t matter — because I think it does. I mainly looked at colleges in California. I knew I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college because I was very undecided about what I want to do and still am. I wanted a more holistic experience that could prepare me for a lot of different futures versus a career-track type of college. I also felt at home when I visited — the students seemed happy, unique, and passionate about what they were studying. 

Q: Why did you choose to major in geology?

Dede in rocky landscape reaching down for a rockA: I knew I wanted to major in STEM, so originally I was taking a lot of math and chemistry classes. I liked these classes but didn’t feel particularly grabbed by any subject. I really wanted to study something more applied and hands-on. A professor suggested that I take a geology course because it involves so many science disciplines but they’re applied to Earth’s landscapes and formations which I’m interested in. It’s very fun to get outside, examine rocks, and figure out what story they’re trying to tell. 

Q: What opportunities have you had as a geology major?

Dede crouching in sandy landscape with sand in handsA: One of the best parts of being a geology major is that the professors really want you to get lab experience as well as field work experience. We have a lot of equipment we use such as a scanning electron microscope, a rock saw, and an x-ray diffractometer. Field trips are a great opportunity: you get to camp with your professors and classmates, you’re basically thrown into this personal experience. I’ve found this brings us closer than maybe what’s common in other departments. 

Q: What are you doing this summer?

Dede in puffer jacket with setting sun and foothills behind herA: I am part of a summer research program at Northern Arizona University in the Planetary Science department, working on a field project in Grand Falls, AZ studying erosion rates. Grand Falls is a dry, desolate, unstable, flood-prone environment; as such, it serves as a good terrestrial analog for Martian valleys. We are using remote sensing, both ground LiDAR and drone imagery, to map the falls. We are also taking sediment and evaporite samples to study chemical and physical weathering. Ultimately, we will study how the landscape changes during monsoon flooding season in July and extrapolate that to Martian landscapes.

Q: Do you have any advice for students applying to Pomona?

Dede in puffer jacket, kissing a stuffed bison, with snowy mountains in backgroundA: My biggest advice is don’t cater to what you think the admissions office wants you to say. Admissions officers want to hear what your life is actually like and what you put your energy into. If you spend hours a week looking after your younger siblings after school, that’s something that is important to them. Don’t worry too much about what admissions officers want to see, just be honest about what has shaped you. You won’t be able to find the right college environment if you’re not honest in your application about what you’re looking for and who you are. Don’t try to put yourself in a mold that you think other people want you to be in because you might end up going to the wrong college.