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Alumni Spotlight: Clayton Chandler

Clayton Chandler recently completed his graduate degree here at BYU, and will be moving on to the next chapter in his life. His time as a graduate student in the Geology Department may not have been exactly what he expected; but, then again, life rarely is.

Ever since his childhood, Chandler has been interested in studying the earth. “When I was little, I used to sit in my back yard and break open rocks with a hammer,” he said. “We had a gravel road . . . most of them were just gray, generic rocks—but we’d break them open to see if there was something interesting on the inside. I think we hoped we would find a geode, but we never did.”

Little did he know that years later he would still be studying rocks, only in a somewhat more scientific way. “I didn’t think about it while I was in high school. Then, my freshman year, I took Geology 101 as a general, and I remembered that I liked it. After my mission I decided to pursue it as a major.”

Chandler also didn’t know that his studies would take him all the way to the other side of the world—like when he went to the Namib Desert in Africa to begin his thesis work. “We went to Namibia and collected some GPR data,” Chandler said. “It was great. It was the first time I’d been out of the country. I enjoyed it a lot.”

While studying geology may not always get you out of the country, it’s sure to at least get you out of the classroom. That’s what Chandler said he enjoyed most about his field of study: “Getting out in the field is always fun. I like to go on trips and see things that I wouldn’t probably see otherwise.”

Not only is it fun to get out into the field, but Chandler believes it’s the best way to learn what you need to know for the future. “An important thing I’ve learned is learning how to learn new things. Because a lot of times you go to school and you get fed information . . . but when it comes down to it later in life, that’s not how you’re going to learn something new,” he said. It’s important to know how to create your own learning process, he says, because “you’re going to learn something new by going out and reading about it . . . most of it’s going to be your own investigation.”

Now, after years of assisting in faculty research at both BYU and the University of Utah, Chandler is well-equipped to face the world. After finishing his thesis, his only regret is not starting off with a clearer direction. “I wish I had taken charge of my research earlier on. It took me a while to get going and really decide what direction I wanted to go,” he said. This isn’t abnormal for graduate students, because it’s not the same as what we are used to in our schooling. “For most people, it’s different than anything you’ve done before,” Chandler said.

Despite being unsure at the start, Chandler has now graduated with his MS in Geology and hopes to work in the oil industry. The valuable lessons he’s learned here at BYU will help him from now on, among them hard work, dedication, and taking control of your own lifelong learning.

-Aubrey Glazier