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April 30, 2021 at 9:00 am

Class of 2021 | Ceara Purcell Digs into Brachiopods, Environmental Change

Ceara Purcell, working in the field

Ceara Purcell

Ceara Purcell dug deep at Ohio University, and not just for her research material, which lay buried in the stratifications of Earth’s history.

She also explored the philosophical and intellectual depths of what it means to be a scientist, “the difference between memorizing rules and regurgitating facts and truly internalizing concepts so that we can apply them in useful and insightful ways.”

Before the pandemic hit, Purcell was able to present at the annual meeting of the  Geological Society of America with her M.S. in Geological Sciences adviser Dr. Alycia Stigall. She received a Geological Sciences Alumni Research Grant and Summer Fellowship to support her work, along with a Ying-Chien Chang Graduate Scholarship.

She finishes this chapter of her research with her thesis on “How did ecological niches evolve during Late Ordovician environmental change? A test using Laurentian brachiopods.” Purcell’s next stop is a Ph.D. program.

Q: What stands out in your mind as you think about graduating despite COVID? 

A: Nothing puts graduate school in perspective like a global pandemic.

Q: What are your next steps/future plans? 

A: I will be moving on to a Ph.D. program, where I will continue working on paleontology and geology.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?  

A: Dr. Greg Springer in the Geology Department was an excellent teacher, and I thoroughly enjoyed his class. He stressed the philosophical and intellectual aspects of science that help define the difference between memorizing rules and regurgitating facts and truly internalizing concepts so that we can apply them in useful and insightful ways. I really hope I don’t let him down.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”? 

A: When I turned in my thesis for final review, I knew I would be okay.

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path? 

A: Data collection was extremely tedious for my project and required a lot of self-discipline. I had to dedicate strict times to work and not deviate from them, but in the end, it paid off.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories? 

A: Walking along the bike trail by the river when the weather was good.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?  

A: Check out the cherry trees, they are lovely, but they do not last long. Plus, the groundhogs are adorable.

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