Name: Sarah Frank
Year: Class of 2011
Hometown: Freehold, NJ
Major: Earth and Planetary Sciences
EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCES AT JHU
My name is Sarah Frank and I’m a sophomore majoring in earth and planetary sciences. I knew I wanted to study environmental science long before I ended up at Hopkins. When I was nine, my family and I went on vacation to Bonaire, a tiny island near Venezuela. I stuck my head in the water for a snorkel and discovered a fantastic and diverse ecosystem. Following my first glimpse of the underwater world, I’ve been fascinated by environmental science. Since that trip when I was young, environmental issues have started to take a leading role in politics and science. At Hopkins I was lucky to find a department that offers a balance between science classes and classes about climate change and sustainability.
I came to Hopkins knowing I loved the environment, and I knew that that love would be reflected in my career choice. As for what exactly my career would be, I had no clue two years ago, and I have no clue now. Maybe research science. Maybe environmental law. Maybe something else. What I do know is that my department will prepare me for a career in any field of my choice. Classes include policy topics, science, and even discussions of morality.
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences has 15 professors and over 20 graduate students who serve as teaching assistants. Every single professor I’ve met has been super friendly, helpful, and welcoming. Each professor, in addition to teaching classes, is completing his or her own research, and their completed work is often posted on the walls outside their offices. A walk through Olin Hall is a review of environmental research on topics ranging from ocean currents to soil invertebrates.
My major requires some classes outside of the department—a year of calculus, a year of physics, and a semester of chemistry. In the department, we have a lot of freedom—only two required classes! This allows the major to be customized to each student. So while my friend wants to pursue meteorology, the department is equally suited for my passion for ecology.
Each student must take Fluid Earth and Dynamic Earth, two basic classes, as well as another four credits at the introductory level. After that, each student needs to complete four advanced courses.
I’ve taken quite a few classes in my department: Dynamic Earth, Dynamic Earth Lab, Population and Community Ecology, Fluid Earth, the Environment and Your Health, Climate Change and Policy, and Climates of the Past. That’s quite a few, and I loved them all. Even after I have completed my major requirements, I know I’ll be filling my schedule with as many EPS classes as I can.
Our department has tons of research opportunities. The professors study really cool and stuff and are only too eager to have help. Here’s a link to their names, and if you click you can see what they study.
I spent last summer on campus assisting with the research of two professors. First was Professor Szlavecz, who is conducting research on relationships between plant growth and invasive earthworms. Professor Szlavecz, her lab assistants, and I would travel each day to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, where we would conduct field research. It was a ton of fun, and I learned a lot about ecology along the way. Here are some photos:
Next was Professor Hinnov, who is researching past climates by analyzing sediment cores from Antarctica. With the assistance of spreadsheets, massive databases, and my iPod, I got to compile a HUGE graph that showed the relationship between depth in the ground and the luminosity of the sediment. Here it is!
Did You Know?
Our department is the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and just like Johns Hopkins himself, Blaustein was a prominent philanthropist. Some of the rocks from his collection are on display outside of the building.
I cannot possibly describe how much I love the environment, so unsurprisingly I wanted a lot out of my classes at Hopkins. I wanted them to be challenging, wide in scope, and taught by people who love what they do. I found all of that in my department and I hope you check it out for yourself.
Click here to access more information about the Earth and Planetary Sciences Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Earth and Planetary Sciences question thread.