It’s not every day your professor takes you on a field trip to see the San Andreas Fault and Vasquez Rocks or tells you to scratch rocks to find its hardness, but in geophysic professor Dr. Dayanthie Weeraratne’s geology courses, those things are part of the norm.
As a geologist, identifying various rocks and minerals is part of the job, which is where her teaching style stems from.
“I take the info and words off the page and you guys, you students experience it hands on. I feel like that’s where the real learning is,” said Weeraratne.
Field trips with her students are one of Weeraratne’s favorite parts of her class besides the teaching because not only does she and the students get to enjoy nature but she loves seeing her students’ excitement in the field.
“I really like to interact with students in nature around geological sections, outcrops. And talk about science with students, that’s the funnest part. We are all naturally asking questions and answering each other. Climbing to the top of Vasquez Rocks, that was fun,” said Weeraratne.
Not everyone has the opportunity to see and explore these geological sites which is another reason why she takes her students on these field trips.
“It’s surprising to me how long people have lived in Los Angeles. They’re next to a major plate boundary and no one knows where it is, they’ve never been there. [San Andreas Fault] is only 45 minutes away,” said Weeraratne.
Weeraratne also stated that geological science has one of the lowest levels of diversity.
“Biology, chemistry– physics is tied with us for the lowest– math, all those fields have more diverse minority students than geology,” said Weeraratne.
She said sciences need diversity because the students can bring new perspectives to the table and offer more viewpoints and ideas.
“I’m interested in helping bring and encourage minorities to get excited over geology and become geologists and become scientists in earth sciences,” said Weeraratne.
It is for this reason she works at CSUN because it is one of the few universities in the entire country that can bring minority students and earth sciences together, since CSUN is a “minority-serving institution.”
Thus by choosing CSUN, she was able to help found the Geological Experience for Minority Students (GEM) program which she hopes will accomplish her goal of more minority students in the geological and earth sciences.
In her free time, Weeraratne loves to play sand volleyball and is helping CSUN to create a Division I women’s sand volleyball team.