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My Experience - Emma Schachner

I came to the MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol from a very unusual background - an undergraduate degree in Political Science isn't exactly your normal preparation, however I had enough experience with fieldwork, fossil preparation and scientific illustration to be given a chance. To say the least, the course changed my life. I entered the program a bit unsure about my academic future, but after just a few months at Bristol I was determined to finish the MSc with a commendation and continue on to a PhD program back in the USA.

The nine taught units in the MSc program were literally like boot camp for palaeontology - you get training in all aspects of field geology, vertebrate and invertebrate palaeontology, fossil preparation, and evolutionary biology. You finish the year by completing a thesis project on a subject of your choice, which is excellent training for writing and publishing original scientific research. Throughout the year there are several classes in which the logistical aspects of scientific writing are discussed and practiced, an important aspect of the course at Bristol that is not emphasized in many other programs.

I hadn't even realized how thorough and extensive the program was until returning to the US and talking with other students about their graduate programs at the SVP meeting and at my various PhD interviews. Professors at all of the top American universities were extremely impressed with the program, and I found that having a British degree was a bit of an advantage when applying for PhD positions due to the quality of the British education system in general. The MSc in Palaeobiology at Bristol is the perfect starting point for students interested in continuing on to do a PhD (in either Europe or North America), or getting into a museum or science-related job. I will be starting my PhD this fall at the University of Pennsylvania and I couldn't have chosen a better palaeobiology program as preparation.

Read Emma's web site here, and see some of her palaeontological illustrations. Emma completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, then joined Colleen Farmer's Laboratory at the University of Utah as a postdoc. She is now an Assistant Professor at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she uses a broad and interdisciplinary approach to ask questions about the origin and evolution of novel morphological innovations in vertebrates. She also uses various forms of art to communicate her research to both the scientific community and the public.

School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol, UK BS8 1RJ
Tel: +44 (0)117 9545400  Fax: +44 (0)117 9253385  Email: earth-msc@bris.ac.uk  Web: www.gly.bris.ac.uk