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Giving students a voice

Janine Birnbaum
Birnbaum is pictured doing field work near June Lake as part of GS190: Research in the Field. The students are mapping the granite and contact metamorphosed sediments of the Sierras and glacial deposits. (Photo credit: Melanie Cahill)

Janine Birnbaum

BS and BSH ‘18
Geological Sciences and Geophysics with Notation in Science Communication

Janine Birnbaum, ’18, developed an early fascination with the Earth’s interior. “I’d go outside with my field guide and my mom and bash on rocks so I could amass my mineral collection,” she said of her early field exploits. This childhood curiosity blossomed into her academic pursuits at Stanford. By combining both the computational aspects of geophysics and the field-based science of geology, Birnbaum discovered the value of “using tools, such as numerical models, to connect fundamental physical processes that you can’t see.” Beyond the classroom, she united these disciplines to study lava lakes on volcanoes as part of a research project through the Stanford Earth Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SESUR).

Birnbaum’s commitment to crossing disciplines also extends to her fellow classmates. In 2017, she helped found the Undergraduate Student Council, an analogue to the Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC), that is designed to help undergraduates address their unique needs. With representation from all the majors within Stanford Earth, the Undergraduate Student Council serves as a liaison between students, administration, and faculty. “We needed a student body to represent the interests of the undergrads,” Birnbaum said. She is particularly proud of the council’s role in redesigning the student lounge, located in GeoCorner, to be an inclusive space where students can hold meetings and study. The group hosts social events to bridge the school’s disciplines and promote its majors to prospective undergraduates at campus-wide events, such as Admit Weekend and New Student Orientation. Birnbaum hopes that new students can continue her legacy of “giving students a voice” by joining the council.

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