Lesson 0: Orientation


Photo of Laura Guertin - Contact your instructor if you are unable to see or interpret this graphic. Dr. Laura Guertin, instructor for the online Environments of Africa course. Most of my students call me "Dr. G"-it's alot easier to remember and pronounce! I'm an Assistant Professor of Earth Science at the Penn State Delaware County campus, located right outside of Philadelphia.

I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts (also the birthplace of the sport of basketball!), but spent most of my years growing up in Plainville, Connecticut (yes, that is the true name of my hometown). I completed my undergraduate degree in geology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. I spent some time during my undergraduate years doing oceanography fieldwork and coursework at the Wallops Island Marine Station in Virginia and at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, and I completed an internship with NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in Norfolk, VA. These experiences solidified my interests in the marine sciences and I decided to attend graduate school for marine geology.

In the late summer of 1992, I arrived at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to begin my Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics. On the first day of graduate student orientation, I was told to "get out and leave!" This was because Hurricane Andrew was on its way. Andrew hit the campus on the first day of classes. So, a week later when UM opened back up, my first semester of graduate school was spent living out of my car for a month (I had no place to live, so much housing had been destroyed), seeing the incredible price increases on the few products available in stores (yes, individual rolls of toilet paper were selling for $50 each), and stepping over cot beds and children's toys in the campus library that was serving as an evacuation shelter. Yes, it was a rough start, but I was able to complete some amazing research in the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park. In everyday words, my research examined the last 30 million years of southernmost Florida's geologic history, mapping out the timing of sediment deposition and sea-level changes.

If you had asked me when I was an undergraduate what I wanted to be when I grew up, being a college professor would have been at the bottom of my list. I absolutely hated getting up in front of people and speaking! However, I started teaching when I was in graduate school, and it was a great experience and really rewarding for me. So here I am, a college professor, and I wouldn't trade my job for anything in the world. But enough of the boring academic stuff!

I absolutely love sports - mainly watching sports, that is. Although I played intermural volleyball and softball in college, I really like to watch basketball - I was just too short to play the game myself. Having been raised in the New England states, I'm a big fan of the New England teams - the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox. This doesn't go over very well with my students from the Philadelphia region. But I have been known to attend a Sixers or Flyers game. Some people may say I'm too sports-crazy, since I even got married in a baseball stadium at home plate right before a game! My husband, who teaches chemistry at Drexel University, is a big sports fan as well.