Lago Vista, Texas
"Being gay in STEM doesn't mean you have to hide who you are"
Preston was raised in Lago Vista, Texas, and graduated from Lago Vista High School in 2015. In 2019, Preston graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.Sc in Geological Sciences, a B.Sc in Mathematical Sciences, and two certificates in Computational Science and Engineering as well as Scientific Computation and Data Science. During his early years at the Jackson School of Geosciences, Preston developed a passion for numerical modeling. In his junior year, Preston joined the Geologic Porous Media Group with whom he completed an undergraduate honors thesis on “Pore Fluid Overpressure Generation in Viscously Deforming Porous Media: Implications for Modeling Episodic Fluid Migration in Salt Basins ”. Throughout his time at The University of Texas at Austin, Preston developed a passion for geoscience outreach and education and served as President of the Undergraduate Geological Society. Preston currently works as a Computational Engineer in Houston, Texas. Looking forward, Preston hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Computational and Mathematical Engineering to develop efficient and robust numerical solutions to Earth Science problems using high-performance computing.
Upon applying to college, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to study. This left me feeling anxious, scared, stressed, yet excited at the same time. I originally applied for a degree in engineering, but accidentally fell into the world of geoscience. Initially, I became captivated by the diversity of the subjects covered. I began my journey in the realm of geochemistry but later on in my undergraduate degree developed a passion for computational geoscience and how we can leverage advances in computing to improve our understanding of the Earth system via modeling and simulation. Around the end of my sophomore year, I applied for a degree in Mathematics with an emphasis on scientific computation. Coupling these two fields provided me with the skill set to begin my modeling career in the Earth Sciences. Under the Earth's surface is a rich array of geological resources, many with potential use to humankind. However, extracting and harnessing them comes with enormous uncertainties, high costs, and considerable risks. Modeling provides us with the unique opportunity to make predictions about the subsurface and to quantify uncertainty prior to decision making.
The surprising thing is...
Being gay can make you a better geoscientist. Many members of the LGBT+ community often have had to cope with tremendous uncertainty in their life: How will my friends and family view me differently if they know I am gay? Will they respond negatively? Will these relationships be permanently changed? Having to cope with this uncertainty, and more importantly, making decisions in its presence makes one well-equipped to handle geological uncertainty.
Geoscience is an incredibly diverse field integrating chemistry, mathematics, physics, computer science and biology. People often think geoscience is limited to the study of rocks; however, it includes all fields of natural science related to the planet Earth! If you feel that your sexuality might isolate you when pursuing a STEM degree, you're not alone. That being said, geoscientists are some of the most welcoming and supportive people I have found. As a gay scientist who had these concerns upon entering college, you might come to be pleasantly surprised by the world of geoscience!