Finding my unique path from geology to data science

Alexandra Horne ’12

Alexandra Horne ’12

Data Scientist, ADM Associates, Inc.

Academic focus: geology and art history double major

Internship: research intern, Keck Geology Consortium

Study abroad: Geology of New Zealand program, Frontiers Abroad

Advanced degree: Ph.D. in geology, Arizona State University

After studying in New Zealand with Frontiers Abroad and completing an undergraduate thesis through the Keck program, I fell in love with the research process.

I began pursuing a Ph.D. in geology about a year after leaving Mount Holyoke College and had wonderful opportunities to “geologize” around the world — from Mount Everest to the pristine peaks of the Sierra Nevada. I had a lot of fun developing micro-analytical thermochronologic techniques for detrital studies at Arizona State University's Group 18 Laboratories, and I learned an awful lot about both geoscience and life on the road to my doctorate.

Over the last year of my dissertation, I began to realize that I wanted to find a career path outside of academia. My experiences at Mount Holyoke helped me grow into the sort of woman confident in her ability to do whatever she wants and keen to tackle tricky new projects, so making a career change from being a geochemist and thermochronologist to being a data scientist seemed like a fun, new adventure.

I am now perched on the eastern side of the stunning Sierra Nevada, working in the energy industry on efficiency modeling and forecasting. Leaving academia is a bit scary, but it’s also very exciting. I love geology and have no plans to ever stop learning about tectonics — but the world we live in has myriad problems that need solving, and I felt a tug to tinker with a new one for the time being.

In the end, you have to find your own unique path and, in the words of Mary Lyon, “Go where no one else will go. Do what no one else will do.”