Kristina Keating

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Kristina Keating
Kristina Keating headshot.png
Latest company Rutgers University

SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2018 [1]

Kristina Keating of Rutgers University has developed novel teaching methods, created new courses, volunteers time to hold a weekly seminar to help foreign graduate students improve their writing skills, and promotes women in STEM fields. She has implemented group study and student interaction — techniques that require considerable effort beyond standard methods and are rarely applied in large classes like those she teaches (more than 200 students).

Biography Citation for the 2018 SEG Outstanding Educator Award

By Lee Slater

Kristina Keating's contributions to educating the next generation of geophysicists are remarkable given her relatively early-stage career. The road to tenure at research institutions is increasingly tough — the assistant professor must build an externally funded research program and publish numerous papers. Many professors necessarily relax their teaching efforts to the minimum needed to avoid raising eyebrows among peers. Creative teaching strategies have increasingly been concentrated in liberal arts colleges where teaching is rewarded. Kristina breaks boundaries by coupling an internationally recognized research program with a dedication to teaching that is equal to any efforts found in a liberal arts institution. This coupling of research and education at Rutgers University at Newark (RUN) has provided unique experiences for a diverse student population.

U.S. News and World Report has ranked RUN as the most diverse national university in the United States for the last 20 years in a row. RUN serves a high percentage of first-generation students — many lack critical skillsets and have low self expectations. Undergraduates commonly lack the strong quantitative skillsets that we desire of the young geophysicist. The majority have poor writing skills, in part because more than 60% of the students use English as a second language. Whereas some might complain about the “quality” of such students, Kristina seizes every opportunity to unleash their potential. She codeveloped a mandatory course in quantitative geosciences, teaching undergraduates important programming skills. She also developed a new graduate course providing formal training in inverse methods. Kristina was similarly undeterred by the poor writing skills of many students. She volunteered her time to run lunchtime writing seminars with small student groups. She also selflessly dedicated time to the professional development of graduate students. Kristina has coorganized an annual graduate student retreat in order to improve presentation skills and to help students navigate the peer-review process.

Kristina has also provided unique field-based research and learning opportunities for students. She has supervised many undergraduate students in research, introducing them to nuclear magnetic resonance, complex resistivity, and magnetic susceptibility. Her devoted mentorship has netted impressive results. For example, one failing minority undergraduate student with untapped potential benefitted in a life-changing way from Kristina's mentorship. This student is now pursuing a doctorate in geophysics at an internationally recognized research university. Kristina took one of her female undergraduate students on a field campaign to investigate permafrost dynamics in the Norwegian Arctic. This not only benefitted the individual student, it also inspired other RUN undergraduates to engage in geophysics research.

Kristina has been an outstanding mentor of doctoral students in near-surface geophysics. She values informal student-faculty relationships that promote student success. She has provided every opportunity for her doctoral students to develop professional skills by attending conferences and workshops. She has enthusiastically participated in a yearly student-led hydrogeophysics workshop. Kristina has used this opportunity to train her students in geophysics, even turning up with her one-year-old (at the time) son in tow.

Kristina's impact on improving geophysics education is now expanding well beyond the confines of RUN. This year, she is leading a new National Science Foundation-funded GEOPATHS project that aims to improve geoscience education via novel, field/research-based learning activities. This project provides opportunities for undergraduate students in geophysics to serve as student mentors to a broad spectrum of minority students from diverse backgrounds who have not yet decided on their course of study. She is leading this project with both passion and vision. Kristina undoubtedly deserves the Outstanding Educator Award for her enthusiastic commitment to coupling a rigorous geophysics education with promoting diversity and women in the geosciences at a minority-serving institution.

References

  1. The Leading Edge Volume 37, Issue 11