School of Earth and Space Exploration Dean’s Medalist discovers her passion for research



December 8, 2021

Editor’s Note: This story is one in a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Megan McGroarty is the Dean’s Medal of Fall 2021 for the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Megan McGroarty, School of Earth and Space Exploration Dean’s Medalist Fall 2021, will earn a Bachelor of Science in Astrobiology and Biogeosciences, a Minor in German, and a Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems.
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She is also a Barrett, The Honors College undergraduate and graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Astrobiology and Biogeosciences, a Minor in German, and a Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems.

McGroarty, originally from Pennsylvania, took full advantage of ASU’s interdisciplinary opportunities and worked as a docent at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The school’s docents play a vital role in its operations, including providing guest services and tours of the scientific exploration gallery. During her time as a guide, McGroaty became an expert tour guide, welcoming K-12 school groups, parents, alumni, VIPs and members of the public.

Despite the challenges she faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and having to return home to Pennsylvania for most of 2020, McGroarty has shown great persistence and initiative in adjusting to a virtual environment. In her educational role, she learned to give interesting tours on Zoom and showed by example what it is like to be a successful student in the STEM environment. For her studies, she was both proactive and creative, carrying out most of her thesis project remotely, although she could not be on campus.

Heather throop, associate professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration and at the School of Life Sciences, was McGroarty’s thesis supervisor. She remembers meeting her in the SESE Camp program.

“She stood out because she asked enthusiastic questions about the research in my lab,” Throop said. “Then she continued that interest in her second semester when she applied to volunteer at the lab. It soon became apparent that his keen enthusiasm and powerful intelligence would be a great asset. ”

When McGroarty and Throop began discussing the possibility of her doing an honors thesis project in Throop’s lab, McGroarty’s enthusiasm for the research solidified.

“For her honors thesis, Megan collaborated on the design, coordination and implementation of a field experiment that addresses critical questions about how the carbon cycle in deserts will respond to climate change. ”Throop said. “It was a huge effort to create this distributed experience with locations in the five deserts of the western United States, especially with the challenges of COVID. Megan’s hard work and enthusiasm have driven this research forward.

While McGroarty has always been interested in studying science, it was the support of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and ASU’s experiments that helped her discover what drives her about research. She credits Throop with some of those lessons.

“Professor Throop has taught me to think independently and navigate on my own,” said McGroarty, “which is a skill that I will take with me into the future.”

After graduation, McGroarty plans to continue his studies at university next fall. We asked him to share his time here at ASU.

Question: What did you learn during your time at ASU – in class or otherwise – that surprised you or changed your point of view?

Reply: Getting involved and getting involved can be extremely rewarding.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of my specialization and the interdisciplinarity of the university. I was always amazed at how much this great university had to offer, but it still had this small community within Barrett and the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to those who are still in school?

A: Take breaks and remember to take care of yourself.

Q: What was your favorite place on campus, whether it was to study, meet friends, or just think about life?

A: Outside the Hayden Library, the north side sub-patio courtyard (the area to the right with the underground entrance to the Hayden Library to the west and the E wing of the Life Sciences building to the is). This area was always great, as it was shaded and relieved from the Arizona heat, and it’s a relatively quiet place to be in the middle of campus.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate?

A: After graduating a semester earlier, I plan to return to the East Coast for a bit. I hope to go to graduate school next fall.

Q: If someone gave you $ 40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what you attack yourself?

A: That’s a tricky question to answer, and there are limitless possibilities for what one could do with that kind of money. My first thought would be to donate money to community programs, whatever they are, be it for homelessness, nutritional feeding programs, etc. – maybe a lot of changes could come from a more local level.



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