By Roadtrip Nation

Lauren Birgenheier


My road in life has been direct.
I grew up in Chicago but went to a summer camp in the West, where I got to hike and experience nature outside of a big city.
When I went to college, I knew I wanted to go into science, but didn’t find my passion for geology until I took an intro to geology course and got to travel to national parks to explore the earth.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in geology, I worked as a teaching assistant to figure out if I’d like to teach geology.
I also spent a couple of years working in environmental consulting, which helped me decide to go back to school because it wasn’t enough of a technical challenge for me.
While getting my Ph.D., I did field work in Australia to study the rocks and look for clues about what the ancient climate was like there.
After graduate school, I moved to Utah and I did research exclusively for a few years before starting on a tenure track.
During my tenure track, I had a baby, got divorced, and became a single mom—it was a critical time in my career and the added family stress made it much harder, but it also made me a stronger person.
I now teach geology at the University of Utah and do research on sedimentary rocks to try and to figure out what the ancient environment was like when they were deposited millions of years ago!
Keep following my journey


Associate Professor, Geology & Geophysics

I teach geology to college and graduate students and do research as a sedimentary geologist.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Teaching / Mentoring

Day to Day

I get to the office and prep my lessons for an hour or two and then go on to teach class. I usually like to be done teaching by noon and use the afternoons to meet with students (mostly graduate students) to advise them. I edit and write papers for publication in journals. I also write grant proposals. I go to committee meetings and attend lectures. Additionally, I travel about every other month for research, either for conferences, field work, or collaboration.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for college students

Take a class, do well in it, and find a few mentors that you can carry with you as you progress through the field.

Recommended Education

My career is related to what I studied. I'd recommend the path I took:


The Noise I Shed

From Myself:

"You won't be able to achieve your career goal as a single mom."

Challenges I Overcame

Mental Health Issues