Hydrogeologist, Tiffany Jebson @arsenicrisk: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Tiffany Jebson, Hydrogeologist/Master’s student in Geospatial Information Technology

NAME:  Tiffany Jebson

CURRENT TITLE:  Master’s Student, Geologist in Training (GIT)

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Hydrogeology, Environmental Geology


EDUCATION:  B.S. Geochemistry, Virginia Tech; M.S. Hydrogeology (current), Virginia Tech

What’s your job like?

I currently balance being a teaching assistant for two Resources Geology Labs at Virginia Tech and being a full-time graduate student. I’m working on collecting data for my thesis research and spend a lot of time trying to learn new software (i.e. JMP statistical software) to make my data mining efficient and exciting!

What’s a typical day like?

I usually do typical student activities like homework and studying, but I try to work on my thesis research as much as possible. I’m in the process of learning ArcGIS, so a good portion of my time is spent trying to create interesting maps with the existing arsenic groundwater data I have collected from various agencies and groups. The majority of my day is usually spent with a coffee in hand to maintain my productivity, as is true with most graduate students!

What’s fun?

Being a graduate student allows me to have a flexible schedule so that I can go for a run during the day and then get back to my work. After working full-time for the past few years, this is a great perk!  The best part about being a graduate student is that I get to learn more about the things I find interesting (i.e. contaminant transport in groundwater) with the hopes that I can apply them to real-world situations upon graduation.

What’s challenging?

Teaching students can be challenging for me, as I am not a natural teacher. I want the students to share my enthusiasm for the topics I teach, but it can be very difficult to keep college freshman engaged.

As far as my research goes, I think writing grant proposals is difficult, as well as time-consuming. Having money to complete my research or sustain me during the summer months is imperative, so there is a lot of pressure to win as many grants as possible. The grant proposals do force you to closely examine your research methodology and research questions more closely, which will only make the research better.

What’s your advice to students?

1) Don’t be afraid to try new things. I worked in environmental consulting for a few years, while I figured out what I was passionate about. Learning what you don’t like is just as important as finding out what you do like. As long as you are constantly learning and honing your skills, your time will never be wasted!

2) Attend seminars on campus, even if they aren’t in your field of study. The more people you see give talks, the more you figure out what kind of public speaker you aspire to be.

3) You should start applying to job opportunities about six months before you graduate. Finding a job that’s right for you, as well as landing interviews and offers takes time, and you want to be as proactive as possible.

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