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Before this semester, Trisha Slemmer ’04 (Quakertown, Pa.) assumed she’d eventually work as a field scientist. Then her English professor asked her to help with some research about women in geology, and she began to envision all sorts of other possibilities.

Slemmer, a geology major, is working as an EXCEL Scholar with Virginia Zimmerman, visiting assistant professor of English, in a study of geological writing in the 19th century. Slemmer is focusing on female geologists in the first half of the century.

“Women had to push to be able to study science,” Slemmer says. “Often, they came to know science through their husbands. They didn’t have their own identity in science.”

Slemmer has already compiled short biographical sketches of about a dozen British women who studied geology on their own or with their husbands.

“I listed their contributions and how they came to know science,” she says. “I didn’t know it was going to turn out to be as exciting as it is. I’m learning geology and history and Women’s Studies all at once.”

Zimmerman taught Slemmer in a class on literary questions during the fall semester and was impressed with her ability to interpret texts.

“I thought she would be a good person to work on this project,” Zimmerman says, explaining that Slemmer has found a number of articles in addition to those Zimmerman assigned her to read, and has come up with some new themes on which to focus. “I’ve been proven correct.”

Slemmer says the experience is giving her a chance to use what she’s learned in her geology classes in a new way — and to look at her professional future in a new way as well.

“I’m learning that I can still focus on science and geology without actually being a geologist,” she says, explaining that she’s now considering technical writing or teaching in addition to field geology.

A graduate of Quakertown Community High School, Slemmer serves as a peer counselor and is a member of the crew team.

Categorized in: Academic News