A Double Major for Digging Up Dinosaurs

Colin BoisvertColin Boisvert, Geology and Biology

Colin Boisvert always wanted to be a paleontologist. A double major in geology and biology will give him a solid foundation in science so he can pursue his dream of becoming a professor, he said. “A double major really helps give me the broadest background possible.”

With his professional goal firmly in mind, Boisvert mapped out his required classes within a month of arriving at UC Davis as a freshman. He was helped by Mandy Hanou, undergraduate advisor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “Meeting with Mandy, I was able to see which courses I needed to take and where there’s overlap with biology. She really helped me kick-start my plan,” Boisvert said. “Having that four-year plan ready to go was a really crucial step in majoring in two science fields. It’s made it really easy for scheduling classes, because each quarter I know which classes I need to take,” he said.

“I’m not a biologist, nor a geologist. I’m more.”

Even with a double major in the sciences, Boisvert has found time to participate in research. He has measured and compared claw sizes in amniotes like beavers, using collections at UC Davis, the California Academy of Sciences, and UC Berkeley. For his senior thesis, Boisvert is looking for evidence of gender differences (sexual dimorphism) in Allosaurus fragilis fossils held at the Natural History Museum of Utah. (Allosauroids are Boisvert’s favorite group of dinosaurs, which he hopes to study for the rest of his life.) 

He’s also had the opportunity to present his findings at paleontology research conferences. “Getting to meet some of my childhood heroes and getting to present my research to these scientists was a really awesome experience,” he said. 

Best advice: It’s all about balance

Balance is one of the biggest challenges for a double major. You need to be able to balance both your time and your class load because you’re going to be studying very different things. The rewards come from seeing your two fields mix and collide. For instance, one day I had three different lectures on plant evolution, and got three different perspectives. 

Favorite class: GEL 12 (Dinosaurs)

My professor, Sandy Carlson, is really good at teaching the class, and she actually helped me learn a lot. Because the thing is, I know a lot about dinosaurs, but she taught me stuff I didn't know. She's also helped me grow up from the kid who's just read a lot of books, to now a budding scientist who's looking at dinosaurs from a different perspective.

Learn more about a major in Geology.

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