"When you pick up a rock and hold it in your hands, you are actually holding a book containing key clues about the Earth's past. Even the most ordinary of rocks contains a treasure trove of information," said undergraduate student Dean Tuck.
According to Wikipedia, geology is the science and study of the Earth, its composition, structure, physical properties, and the processes that shape it. As time goes by, Dean's interests seem to more closely match that very definition.
Children are geologists...at some point
As a child, Dean was very interested in water, rocks and the outdoors. He spent endless hours playing in the creek behind his house. "Every kid has a rock collection. Geologists just never grew out of it, I suppose," he said with a smile.
In the eighth grade, Dean discovered that the outdoors were not only about exploring and having fun. He took advantage of his interests and applied them in school when the right opportunity came: the science fair.
For his project he decided to do a water analysis of the creek behind his house to practice the scientific method. To his surprise he won first place. "I continued my project for five years—through my senior year—and over that time I won awards at many competitions including the Intel International Science Fair in Detroit, where fifty states and forty countries participated. [It was] one of the best experiences of my life!" Dean proudly said.
Environmental engineering? Sounds good.
Having interned for several engineering firms since the ninth grade, Dean thought he was supposed to be an engineer. Soon after graduating from Plano High in 2002, he became a civil and environmental engineering major at Southern Methodist University where he was awarded generous scholarships. "I quickly discovered how little I fit into SMU—not to the surprise of my family and friends—and began looking for another school," he said.
Going back toward geology seemed like a natural choice and a better fit for his interests. "I knew that UTD had a long and strong history of being a research institute despite being a four-year university for only a little over a decade. However, it was after a stroll through the rock garden and past the mineral display case that my passion was reignited. At that moment, I knew I wanted to study geosciences at UTD."
As a geosciences major, Dean's interests continued to flourish and the knowledge of his surroundings expanded to allow him to view things in a new light. Dean said, "All of a sudden I was picking up ‘gravel’ along trails and realizing they were fossils; I was driving by road cuts and seeing faults and folds. ‘You see what you are trained to see,’ someone told me in the field, and now as a geologist, I am beginning to truly see the world around me.”
Want to do some research in Ethiopia?
Perhaps it was Dean's refreshing perspective, and eagerness to learn and expand his knowledge that meshed so well with the Department of Geosciences at UTD. Through research in the department, Dean has traveled to geologically exciting parts of the world such as Ethiopia to do field research.
Dean's passion in the geosciences is very clear. "You can study at any scale, from the structure of microscopic minerals with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to the geological structure of an entire continent, using remote sensing. You can study minerals, rocks, and water not just here on Earth but throughout the solar system!" Dean continues, "As geologists we travel the globe, hang off cliffs in Ireland, scuba dive to study reefs in the Caribbean, climb mountains in the Andes, and explore the Antarctic. The world is your office, your lab, and your playground—what a dream job."
UT Dallas Geosciences
It is atypical for an undergraduate student to be involved with and to undertake such specialized research while fulfilling the requirements of his curriculum, but Dean's dedication and love of the outdoors has had a synergistic interaction.
"I could not imagine studying anywhere else. I get to go camping, sit up late at night around a campfire talking with my professors, and I get to bring back a bag full of rocks and a mind full of stories—and that's just my classes! The ability for me to travel and do research is priceless to me. What other school programs would fund an undergraduate student traveling to England one summer [to do cybermapping field work with Dr. Carlos Aiken] and to Ethiopia [to do field work on Snowball Earth with Dr. Robert Stern and Dr. Nathan Miller] the next?
"Being a geologist is more than studying rocks; it is being able to read the world around us like a book, a fantastic story filled with life, mystery, complete chaos, and yet meticulous order. All of which led the earth to be where it is today.
"It's all about going camping, traveling the world, connecting the dots and coloring.
"It requires wandering off the beaten path to see a part of the world that has never been seen, to fill your pack with beautiful rocks, your camera with pictures and your mind with stories.
"This is why I am a geologist."
"I love to be outdoors, to camp, to backpack, and to travel. Geology gives me all of this and more as my degree."
Extracurricular Activities at UT Dallas
After joining UT Dallas as a transfer student, Dean joined the Geoclub, an organization comprised of fellow undergraduates, as well as graduates and professors. "Geoclub made for a wonderful networking tool and for finding out who everyone was and what they do."
In 2005, Dean wanted to be involved with a sporting club on campus, so after seeing a flyer posted on campus, he contacted the Ultimate Frisbee Team. "[Joining the team] was a great decision! There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with a variety of activities and organizations...just because you cannot walk across the street and have access to a dozen bars or go to a frat house, doesn't mean people aren't getting together and hanging out having fun."
Professor Dean Tuck shows fresh minds the world around them
Dean would like to continue doing his research of designing constructed wetland systems from indigenous materials. He would like to apply these systems in developing countries in order to provide purified drinking water.
Dean believes in a multidisciplinary approach to science and education; therefore, he would like to pursue his research on Snowball Earth and his work on Cybermapping. Additionally he would enjoy becoming a professor and one day introducing students to the wonderful world of geology "which is nothing more than introducing them to the world that they live in." Dean adds, "If nothing else, I would like to share my passion and research with the world."
- Updated: May 8, 2009