In the field: Geologist and photographer Aaron Goldstein explores layers of Earth and humanity

Aaron Goldstein; B.S. Geology, 2018

Major: B.S. in Geology (2018)

Where are you from? And why did you decide to come to KU?

I am originally from Anderson, MO – a small town in southwestern Missouri which is located approximately 30 miles southwest from Joplin, MO. I decided to come to KU based mainly on two factors, the first of which was that KU’s geology program is very well established and prepares students to solve problems faced as a professional geologist. The other main factor that led me to KU was that there is a large Jewish community at the university. The people who participated in Jewish life at KU became my main social group that I interacted with regularly.

Describe your areas of study and tell us why these subjects are important to you:

My main area of study was in geology, in which concepts such as plate tectonics, geophysics, and field geology were discussed in detail. From a young age, I had always been interested in rocks. I would gather a rock collection anytime I was on vacation or even in the backyard at our house. My passion for rock collecting would solidify more when I visited the Smithsonian Natural History museum. It was there where my parents would take me to the crystal exhibits, and I was so fascinated that my parents had bought me a pocket book containing information on hundreds of rocks and minerals. It was from then on that I was interested in geology.

My main interest is in the discipline of geophysics, where several geophysical techniques can be used for ore and mineral exploration. I am most interested in using geophysical techniques such as seismic refraction to collect and analyze data to create 3D or 4D models of the subsurface. This topic is important to me because it can be utilized for hydrocarbon exploration.

What do you think is most valuable about your experiences in these programs?

I think that the most exciting part of the geology program at KU is the countless trips we make all over the U.S. and the world for field work. Almost every course you take as a geology student has a field component, so you may find yourself in states such as Colorado and Wyoming. Research goes even further, and you may find yourself traveling to another country to conduct a field study.

"I think the most valuable experiences of these programs, apart from the academics, is the bonds that you make with the students you travel with. Some of my best friends are those who I did field work with in geology courses."

How did you get into photography? What do you enjoy most about that and what do you wish to accomplish through your work? Are there any particular themes or subjects you like to explore?

Photography has been an interest of mine from a young age. When I had my first point-and-shoot camera, I would often take pictures when I went on vacation, and my parents thought that I had a good eye. After many years, I was given my first DSLR camera as a Hanukkah present sophomore year of high school.

“For me, the most enjoyable part of photography is that it brings peace to me, whether I benefit financially from the end-product or not. Through my work, I wish to accomplish showing the rest of the world my perspective on life.”

Currently, I am working on a project in which I interview homeless people and capture their portrait so that I can share their inner struggle and turmoil that most people fail to see.

Give a shout-out to someone who has been influential during your time at KU:

Hands down a shout-out to Dr. Noah McLean, who helped me find what I was most passionate about in geology. He is also an amazing lecturer, who is dedicated to making sure everyone understands the material he teaches.

What was your favorite class at KU? And why?

I think my favorite course at KU would have to be a course entitled Mythology, Folklore, and Culture of Eastern Asia taught by Dr. Keith McMahon. I found the topic in general, very interesting and fulfilling to learn about a culture completely different from our own.

Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or any other learning experiences you’d like to share? If so, what was that like?

I studied abroad at the University of Leeds in Leeds, England the fall semester of 2018. No words can express how amazing my experience was in the UK. Being in a foreign country, albeit the native language is English, takes some adjusting to.

"Everything from the culture to the people I met during my time in the UK was eye-opening and gives you a different perspective on life."

At the university, I found that the material presented in lectures are in a completely different format and requires a different set of studying to prepare for. Even still, studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Christkindelmarkt (German Christmas Market) in Leeds, England.

What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?

I think the real benefit of being a student in the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is that it allows a large proportion of individuals with different backgrounds to work together to learn and understand concepts and see ideas from different perspectives. Additionally, it provides a foundation for the appreciation of more subjects and ideas than just your main area of study.

What are you doing now, and what are your future plans?

Having graduated May 2018, I currently am employed as an entry-level geophysicist/geoscientist in Charlotte, NC by Intertek-PSI, a London based company. The bulk of my position consists of utilizing geophysical techniques and geological concepts to create 3D models of the subsurface for various companies such as Marathon and Shell, to name a few. In the future, I would like to return to graduate school so that I can pursue my dream of becoming an exploration geophysicist.

A portrait of a homeless man in Charlotte, North Carolina. Aaron’s notes about this photo: “He was trying to find enough money to go to the homeless shelter and find food but hardly anyone was listening. He saw me and asked if I would take a picture. I agreed and proceeded to take this image of him. He asked if he could see the picture and I showed him this image and he replied ‘I matter.’ Pretty powerful message: treat everyone with a little bit of humanity.”

What would you tell your freshman self?

Everyone goes to college for different reasons. Some individuals go to college to have the “college experience”, some go to make memories, and some go because they were told that there was no other option. Whatever your initial reason was, realize that for the next x amount of years, academics is your reason to be in school. Treat school like it is a job. Wake up at a decent time in the morning and study material until 5 P.M. In the end, your hard work will pay off, and will allow you to have better job opportunities, life choices, etc.

What motivates you?

I think what motivates me the most is setting goals each week and then looking back at all the progress that I have made towards those goals. It always helps to see where you were and how far you have come to realizing your full potential and goals.

Be like Aaron. Seize the day, push yourself, and explore multiple areas of interest. For more information, visit the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas. And be sure to check out Aaron’s fantastic photography on Instagram!