Assistant Professor, Hydrogeologist, Sarah Vitale @svitale_hydro: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Assistant Professor/Hydrogeologist, Dr. Sarah Vitale (right). ©Sarah Vitale

NAME: Sarah Vitale

CURRENT TITLE: Assistant Professor and Hydrogeologist


YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: 1 (post education)

EDUCATION: PhD Geological Sciences, University of Connecticut, 2017; MS Oceanography, Texas A&M University, 2011; BS Geophysics, State University of New York at Fredonia, 2009

TWITTER: @svitale_hydro

What’s your job like?

Most of my time is dedicated to teaching undergraduate students about environmental geology and hydrogeology. This is split between courses and research, which are strongly integrated with one another. I also serve on my county’s groundwater advisory board and attend a variety of workshops and conferences every year.

What’s a typical day like?

During the academic year (after taking my daughter to daycare), I get into work around 8:30 a.m. and make coffee! Then I hit the ground running, teaching 1-2 labs or lectures, and often meeting with students about course work. Labs are usually field-based, especially in the Fall, so I spend a lot of time outside. Other time is spent developing and fine-tuning research projects and meeting with student researchers. It’s not uncommon to have at least one department- or university-related meeting each week, as well as a department seminar. The summer is much more flexible and research-focused. I spend 3 days each week in the field training students and writing papers and grant proposals. The rest of the time, I spend hanging with my toddler!

What’s fun?

Working with students, especially in the context of research. It’s exciting to watch them develop their research skills and really fun to explore new projects. We’re currently exploring long-term trends in groundwater levels in Wisconsin, and deciphering the source, fate, and transport of phosphorus in the hydrogeologic system.


Dr. Sarah Vitale collecting water samples. ©Sarah Vitale

What’s challenging?

Managing time. It’s easy to over-commit, and learning how to say yes to the right things takes time (and advice from others). In academia, you are never “caught up” and getting comfortable with accepting that is tough, but I think it’s critical to maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

What’s your advice to students?

Don’t pigeon-hole yourself! Expose yourself to many opportunities and experiences, network, and keep as many doors open as possible. You can see from my educational background that my interests are broad, but I wanted to keep my options open. Every experience has benefited my current position enormously.

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