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Mills senior graduating with an individualized major in geology

Mara Nutt won the Bruce McCollum Division Prize for achievement in the sciences.

Mara Nutt is a senior graduating with an individualized major in geology, and was recently awarded the Bruce McCollum Division Prize from the Natural and Health Sciences Division for high scholarly achievement in sciences.

Being one of few students who have finished a bachelor’s degree in geology at Mills, Nutt’s academic journey has been interdisciplinary both generally and in the sciences. According to her adviser, Dr. Kristina Faul, Nutt is a “multidimensional student who has taken classes from women’s, gender and sexuality studies to philosophy.”

Although she entered Mills with the intention to study environmental science, she says that what she loves about geology is that it is where chemistry, biology and physics all intersect. Her geology degree has been made possible by cross-registering at the University of California, Berkeley.

This semester, Nutt is contributing to a geological mapping project at Berkeley, creating a model of the Berkeley Hills. This project is part of a field work course where Nutt has spent her Fridays this semester outside gathering data.

In terms of the typical coursework for a geology student, Nutt says, “If you were to take typical geology at Berkeley, you would take more geology than I am, but there’s a 16 credit cap.” Nevertheless, this didn’t deter Nutt’s scientific career.

In fact, her broad studies in the sciences have helped her to obtain research positions, both on-campus working with Dr. Kristina Faul and the geochemistry team as well as being one of 28 students to participate in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Student Airborne Earth Science Program. In this program, Nutt was able to add to her scientific repertoire by studying atmospheric chemistry.

“She’s an amazing student, I have to say. Really close to my heart personally because she made a geology major and my area of expertise is geology and so she put that together by taking classes at Berkeley, taking classes here and really stuck with making that geology major happen,” Faul said. “She’s been a really good mentor to students coming up, research team students, and also in classes, she’s been a great TA for other students more broadly.”

Nutt hopes to eventually go in to astrogeology, studying the structure of planets, other bodies in the solar system and their geological composition. In 2017, Nutt and 14 other students were funded to attend ABSciCon, a conference where scientists come together to talk about astrobiology.

“Geology for me is like a storybook of the earth that you can read,” Nutt said. At Mills, she says that taking classes in other fields have been essential in her education.

“Environmental racism is a problem that I wouldn’t have understood fully just taking environmental science classes,” Nutt said.

Post graduation, Nutt will take a week-long solo trip to Iceland, just to explore. After that, she’ll be working for Dr. Martha Gilmore, a geologist at Wesleyan College who studies Venus, Mars and the moon. Nutt will be an assistant researching the atmosphere and minerals on Venus. Eventually, she will pursue a doctoral degree in the sciences.