Alex Miller, BS ’10 Natural Resources

Alex MillerDegree: B.S. Natural Resources w/ Minor in Geology (2010)

What is your current position?
Masters student in Geophysics at Boise State University

What was your first job out of college?
Geophysics Field Technician at the ‘Institute of Earth Science and Engineering’ in Auckland, NZ.

Alex - Guatemala

Seismic and video deployment on Santiaguito Volcano, Guatemala, 2009, as a study abroad trip for which Alex received a travel scholarship.

What attracted you to your chosen major/profession?
An eclectic look at multiple scientific disciplines.

How has your education at NC State affected your career and/or personal life?
NCSU gave me the opportunity to do what is possibly the greatest challenge for any college student — discover and begin down a successful and interesting career path.  In giving students the opportunity to mold their studies and classes, it is possible to evolve curriculum to something that is truly suited for the individual.

What is your fondest or funniest memory of school?
That is way too hard and there are way too many to answer!  The first amazing, and also average, memory that comes to mind is talking to Dr. Blank, my advisor, about scholarship opportunities for a scientific expedition to Guatemala.  This trip was organized outside of NCSU and yet funding was still granted for my travels.  Why, you ask? — NCSU & CNR, truly look for their students to succeed by any means within or outside of the university walls.  Once the trip was over, I gave a short presentation to faculty and students on our travels, experiences and results.  As a side note, this trip offered my first work experience with Dr. Jeff Johnson who is my advisor now at Boise State. The whole process was not only refreshing but encouraging!

alex_miller2

Electromagnetic field deployment in New Zealand, 2011

Did you have one class that was particularly tough?
Dendrology.  Give me inverse problems, not leaves!

What were some of your biggest challenges in college?
Balancing social life with scholastics.

What is a typical day at your job like?
I’ll give you an insight to my work in New Zealand – My work varied greatly depending if I was in the field or in the office.

Field work included installing, maintaining and rudimentary data analysis of geophysical equipment.  Such equipment included seismometers, Magneto Telluric gear (magnetic coils, electrodes, data acquisition systems, etc…) and temperature gauges.  The work is very labor intensive and involved a lot of hiking and digging holes.  The locations were remote and international including: South/North Islands of New Zealand, Outback Australia, Rwanda (near the Congo border) and San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.

While in the office, my responsibilities included more data analysis.  This mostly was picking phase arrivals or earthquake data, or seismograms, writing reports for commercial projects, packing/cleaning gear etc… Another responsibility I assumed and became very proficient in was instrument assembly.  IESE built custom seismometers.  Our engineers machined raw materials to create unique seismometers which we sold all over the world.  My job soon involved assembling these machine components into a complete ‘Sonde.’  This process involved a lot of wiring/soldering, welding and engineering.

alex_miller3

Alex as a participant in the Tough Guy and Girl Challenge, team SPCA Auckland, 2013

What advice do you have for current students?

  1. Don’t waste a second
  2. Party on Fridays and Saturdays, the rest is for working
  3. Talk to you advisor every month.  There is so much stuff going on that you may not know about – but your advisor does.  Knock on the door and say, “Hey Dr. Blank, what do you have for me?  Give me something cool to do!”  That is why they are there, and chances are that the connections you make in these activities will get you a job before anything else!

Note from Dr. Gary Blank, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs:   I like to tell incoming undergraduate students about Alex’s story, because he is a great example of how personal initiative combined with the flexibility of the Natural Resources curriculum can create opportunities for tailor-making a program to meet an individual’s interests.