Since 1998 the IRIS Undergraduate Internship Program has provided research experiences for 216 undergraduates interested in exploring the fields of seismology/geophysics. Prior to participating, a majority of students indicate an intention to go to graduate school. However, few are set on seismology/geophysics as their career field. For example, when identifying reasons for participating in the IRIS internship program, the three most frequently selected reason to participate in the program are; “I wanted to do something different than what I had done before” (59%), “The research project(s) sounded interesting” (54%), and “I wanted to know if geophysics was for me” (47%).
The results from a 2018 longitudinal tracking survey summarized in a white-paper report Investigating the academic pathways and careers of alumni of the IRIS Undergraduate Internship Program (1998 – 2018) (Hubenthal, 2019) indicates that the program has long-term impacts on the participants. For example, the program increases most participants’ interest in the geosciences and provides a range of benefits that participants perceived as very influential to their educational/career trajectories. Specifically, the survey found that 77.4% of tracked alumni are either engaged in a geoscience career or advanced degree program*. Documenting alumni experiences has revealed some common educational pathways post participation, and illustrates alumni are employed across a spectrum of employment sectors (e.g. some non-geoscience careers include a wall street analyst, a Hollywood stunt actor, operator of a family business, and an entrepreneur with their own tech startup... to name a few). The analysis of alumni’s career pathways and ultimate employment also reveals variability for subpopulations, especially populations traditionally underrepresented in the geosciences. The causes and implications of such variability are being explored further through additional research.
Longitudinal data about the academic pathways and careers of alumni was collected via an online tracking system that periodically invites alumni to “update” their existing information with the program. In June of 2018, an invitation was sent to 216 alumni. This effort generated responses from 169 alumni (69.4%). To achieve a more complete picture of alumni career pathways, responses were supplemented with an additional 18 surveys that were manually verified and updated by IRIS staff. These 18 surveys consisted of alumni who had completed a 2014 survey and had publicly available information on online which allowed IRIS staff to verify the accuracy of the information or update as needed. As a result, the combined effort generated a total of 187 completed surveys for a total response rate of 87.0%.
*Note that because the survey was conducted in June, the unemployed category primarily contains recent graduates that have not yet started to seek work (e.g. backpacking in Europe for the summer after graduation).
1 - Hubenthal, M. (2019). Investigating the academic pathways and careers of alumni of the IRIS Undergraduate Internship Program (1998 – 2018). Retreived from https://www.iris.edu/hq/files/programs/education_and_outreach/Evaluation/Investigating_career_pathways_v1.pdf