From Indiana Jones to Teotihuacan, anthropology grad follows her passion


April 29, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Often, when people find their true passion, they can point back to one or two experiences that started it all. The catalyst for Molly Corr’s love of archaeology was viewing her first Indiana Jones movie. Although she admits Indy “may have exaggerated a bit,” she was instantly fascinated with the idea of experiencing new cultures and uncovering ancient artifacts. Molly Corr holding a vessel from the excavation site Tel Abel Beth Maacah in Northern Israel. Molly Corr holding a vessel from the excavation site Tel Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel. Download Full Image

Corr, from Yuma, Arizona, is now graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Though the movie spurred her initial interest in archaeology, she credits a memorable experience at ASU Open Door with solidifying her passion. She fondly recalls meeting Professor Michael E. Smith at the event. He leads the Teotihuacan Research Laboratory and he showed Corr the ancient figurine heads he had uncovered in Teotihuacan.

She remembers the moment feeling surreal, thinking that an individual alive thousands of years ago had created the figurine that was now in her hands. From that moment on, she “ate, slept and breathed archaeology.”

Corr received the school’s Undergraduate Research Award and the Early Outreach Scholarship.

She shared more about her time spent at ASU, and her plans to continue studying anthropology in the fall.

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I have been an ASU baby from the start. My mom graduated from ASU and I have been going to ASU football games for as long as I can remember. ASU has one of the best programs in the nation for anthropology, so how could I say no? In addition, the school has a strong Mesoamerican focus which is exactly what I am interested in. When I take classes at ASU, I know I am learning from some of the best in the field.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: First, Professor Mike Smith has taught me that it is OK to fail at first, and I must get back up and try again. He also taught me that critique is necessary in order to grow as a scholar. Second, Associate Professor Matthew Peeples’s classes have taught me that classes are most effective when they are taught by someone who is passionate about their subject. I appreciate the way he teaches, and I aim to incorporate the same level of passion when I become a professor.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would recommend getting involved in every way you can. You never know what club meeting, event or conference will open doors of opportunity for yourself. Staying involved with the school allowed me to shape what interests I had and how to pursue them. You can meet some amazing people when you get involved with what you’re passionate about.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot on campus would have to be the School of Human Evolution and Social Change lobby. Every time I visit, the Innovation Gallery has a new exhibit based on research. The different exhibit themes allow me to take a step back and learn what others are researching and it reminds me that the school is full of diverse interests and perspectives. The lobby gives me a nice and quiet space to study.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be continuing my journey as a Sun Devil, starting the anthropology doctoral program in the fall! The graduate program at ASU is full of amazing faculty and students who are making great strides in academia, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

Taylor Woods

Communications program coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

480-965-6215

Geological sciences PhD grad driven by desire to continue learning


April 29, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

According to Chadlin Ostrander, who is graduating this spring with a PhD in geological sciences from Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, mastering his field has been a process motivated not by a natural aptitude for science, but rather a drive to continue learning. May 2020 grad Chadlin Ostrander. Photo credit: Floyd Kendall Download Full Image

A new year’s resolution to read books by Carl Sagan and a high school geology teacher in his hometown of Klamath Falls, Oregon, planted the seed.

After a stint in the Marine Corps and a relocation to Phoenix for his wife’s career, Ostrander landed at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. 

First, he earned a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences and worked in Professor Ariel Anbar’s lab. Then, he was awarded a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship and stayed at ASU to pursue a doctoral degree.

He continued his work in Anbar’s lab. And with some important guides along the way, ultimately turned himself from passionate soldier into a full-fledged scientist.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When it comes to geochemistry, I didn’t really experience an “aha” moment. Instead, I would characterize it as an “aha” period. It wasn’t until after I spent a few years doing mostly menial tasks in Ariel Anbar’s lab, at best only flirting with the idea of actual research, that the geochemistry studied in his lab really started to wear off on me. If I’m being candid, part of this delay was simply due to the difficulties I faced in learning the geochemistry. I did not have a strong science background when I arrived at ASU.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: My wife gave birth to our two children during my PhD studies. Their arrivals reminded me what is important in life — and what can wait until tomorrow.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: When I completed my bachelor’s degree at ASU, I had already made a lot of research progress in Ariel Anbar’s lab. This head start seemed extremely beneficial. Moreover, although I had to say “no” to other advisers in other programs in order to stay at ASU, I was still lucky enough to collaborate with most of them on research projects that appeared in my dissertation.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I really benefited from the science communication lessons taught by Christy Till. Science loses a lot of its value if it cannot be effectively shared. At the least, scientists in other fields should be able to comprehend your research. Being able to share your research with the general public is even better.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Enjoy this. It should be fun. If this is not fun, you’re doing something wrong.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: This may be cheating a little bit, but I’m going to say Devil’s Advocate (a local watering hole just east of campus). This was a common location for celebrations, catching up with good friends, and, perhaps most importantly, cheap food and beer.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I have accepted a postdoctoral scholar position at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: The Cleveland Indians need to win a World Series. Forty million dollars could net a productive outfielder, a mid- to back-end starter and some much-needed bullpen help.

This article was written by William Kennedy