Life as a student at USU Uintah Basin

From a young age, I have always wanted to become a paleontologist.

My love for dinosaurs and prehistoric life began when I was barely able to walk and talk. Unlike many kids my age, my passion stuck with me all throughout my school years. In the summer of 2021, while working on my final se mester of undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I decided that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree.

I hoped to acquire new skills in paleontology, learn more about the field, and increase my chances of finding a job related to this lifelong passion. In the fall of 2021, I began searching for schools I was interested in applying to and looking for faculty advisors who I could work alongside. I received my first successful response from Dr. Benjamin Burger, informing me that he had openings for graduate students at Utah State University in Vernal.

His research into early mammals enticed me, and his offer to show me around campus prompted me to plan my first trip to Utah. That December, a week before I graduated from UW-Milwaukee with my bachelor’s degree in geosciences, I flew out to Vernal to meet Dr. Burger.

Ben generously gave me a tour of the USU Uintah Basin campus and labs. He is incredibly well versed in all forms of paleontology; his specialty is in early mammals. Ben is a very kind and helpful mentor, giving me clear and useful direction when working in the field and in the lab.

He has also offered his advice for any questions and concerns I may have while in Utah, whether related to paleontology or the Uintah Basin itself. On Feb. 1, 2022, my applica tion for Utah State was accepted. In April of that year, I chose Utah State University, Uintah Basin as my campus of choice to pursue my master’s degree.

I’ve been told finding a good advisor is paramount to graduate study, and I credit Dr. Burger as the main reason I chose Utah State in Vernal.

Iappreciatedtheschool’s smaller-scale facility compared to the much larger space at UW-Milwaukee. It provides a serene atmosphere which helps me to better focus on schoolwork.

The fact that there are apartments within walking distance of the school was another major benefit to the campus. The campus’s closeness to wildlife refuges, geological formations I read about in books, and Dinosaur National Monument itself was everything I wanted as an aspiring paleontologist coming from Wisconsin.

All my interactions with the staff, professors, and students have been unilaterally positive. I have made several friends during my time there both at the school and outside of it. I regularly go to game nights hosted by the local church on the other side of Main Street by the campus, and all the people I have met there were both welcoming and friendly since my arrival in Utah.

Life in Vernal and at USU Uintah Basin has provided me with opportunities I could only imagine back in Wisconsin, and I look forward to experiencing more of it in the coming years.