University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumnus Cole Edwards ’08, of Columbus, Ohio, started taking geology classes in high school, just for fun. Since then, his interest has piqued and he has completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is now on his way to finishing his doctorate in geology.
Upon enrolling at UW Oshkosh, Edwards had not considered geology as a major or a career choice. In fact, choosing UW Oshkosh for college was a last-minute decision. However, Bill Mode, the chair of the geology department, took Edwards under his wing and introduced him to the campus and to the department.
“He’s really the reason why I came to Oshkosh,” Edwards said. “The Friday before the application deadline to apply at UW Oshkosh, he invited me to come down and personally gave me a tour of the department and the campus.”
Edwards began his adventure at UW Oshkosh and chose to major in geology after seeing all the opportunities that geology majors experience.
“I was enamored with what they did and all the traveling the students did,” Edwards said.
During his four years as an undergraduate, Edwards was involved in Geology Club and served as the president during his junior and senior years. Most of his free time was spent on field trips that the geology department offered. Edwards had the opportunity to see interesting geologic environments, including Bermuda, Big Ben National Park, the Black Hills, Death Valley and the Florida Keys.
After completing his honors thesis with Dr. Eric Hiatt, and his bachelor’s degree, Edwards continued his education at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. He earned his master’s degree in geology and decided to continue on. He is now pursuing his doctorate at The Ohio State University.
His support from UW Oshkosh faculty didn’t stop when he graduated—Hiatt has an adjunct faculty appointment with Acadia University in Nova Scotia and was Edwards’s co-supervisor for his Master’s thesis also, and worked with him on field research in northern Quebec for his Master’s degree.
Edwards has conducted field research for his doctorate at Shingle Pass in Nevada and his current research focus entails measuring chemical signatures in ancient Paleozoic-period rocks.
“My focus consists of looking at their signatures and locating them in different environments in North America,” Edwards said. “I look at them to see how they correlate and what factors or environmental conditions may have caused changes in them. I am basically taking rocks into the lab, extracting signatures, mostly isotopes, and trying to make some grand statements.”
Edwards loves the field of geology because he continuously has the opportunity to look at his data in a different way and to discover something new.
“I never know what new ideas or new insights might come about,” Edwards said. “There’s always a chance of discovering something interesting.”
Edwards said that his favorite expression to hear is just the word, “huh.” What he sees in one set of rocks may be completely different than what he expected. There’s always something new to learn.
As he continues to learn about the field that he loves, Edwards attributes much of his academic success to his time at UW Oshkosh, where he studied the fundamentals of geology.
“I am very proud to say that I went to UWO,” he said. “It created this foundation that I can build upon and create new ideas and new theories… Oshkosh really did set the bar high.”
For students in the UW Oshkosh geology program who are looking to make a career out of it, Edwards’ advice is to follow your passions and your interests.
“You have to have something that gets you interested and excited to go into the office every morning,” Edwards said. “Find something that you really like, that you’re passionate about and that you want to learn more about.”