Tyler Cadena

Corpus Christi, Texas

"You never know until you try."

I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas before moving to Austin in 2014 to start my first year at UT Austin. I graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in General Geology and technical minor in chemistry. Throughout my undergraduate career, I developed an interest in magmatic processes and volcanology. I currently conduct research on obsidian pyroclast formation at Sierra La Primavera volcanic complex in the volcanology lab at the Jackson School. To continue exploring the igneous realm of Earth and mechanisms of volcanic activity, I will begin graduate studies at UC Berkeley in the fall of 2019. After attaining my PhD, I hope to become a research professor and spread curiosity for the geologic wonders and facets of our dynamic planet.

My Pathway

I began my high school experience with an affinity for math and English, and while editing the school yearbook, I was also very involved in choir. Although I did well in academics, I didn't truly understand the value of science until my senior year. As I undertook classes in calculus, physics, and chemistry, I began to appreciate the intricacies of the physical world and its governing principles.

When it came time to apply to college, not only was I unsure of what I would major in, but I also wasn't aware of all my options--including geoscience. Projecting on my growing interest in chemistry, and the general financial reputation of engineers, I applied to the chemical engineering program at UT but was instead accepted into the geoscience program. Even though I didn't know much about it, I had every intention of transferring to ChemE. But when I experienced my first lecture in an introductory geology course, my perspective drastically changed.

Seeing the evolution of the Earth through a microscope or standing on a mountainous outcrop was enthralling, and I soon realized how much I was missing before delving into geoscience. Deeply intrigued by this entirely new world of Earth science, I took the leap and decided to pursue geology for my undergraduate degree and have never looked back. I soon uncovered my particular interest for igneous rocks and volcanology. I'm fascinated with how we can use modeling and laboratory techniques to refine our understanding of terrestrial volcanism. These days, I conduct research on obsidian pyroclasts, interpreting preserved bubble textures and dissolved gases to discern how they formed. I look forward to investigating this and other geophysical and geochemical parameters of volcanic processes in graduate school this fall.

The surprising thing is...

Even a year before coming to UT, I would've been surprised to discover that I'd be attaining a BS in geology, or even that I chose to major in a science field. Before geoscience, I seriously considered my other interests like journalism and music as potential pathways for my higher education, but I ultimately chose to branch out and study something I didn't previously have much exposure to that I was very interested in. Since then, my studies and research have deepened my knowledge and curiosity surrounding volcanology, and I'm excited to continue exploring what Earth has to tell us about volcanic eruptive processes.

I understand now that I wasn't out of the norm not knowing what I would study in college, even as a high school senior. It was difficult to fully realize the scope of my options for future career paths before I came to university, which is a counterintuitive struggle I think I share with many students. This makes me appreciate my experiences in the diverse learning environment of UT even more, and underscores the value of a willing mindset and enthusiastic approach while traversing one's academic terrain.


Looking back, I'm glad I followed my interests and passion over what I thought would be the "correct" pathway. This has taught me that if you open your heart and mind to new experiences, you will always learn more about yourself and the world (or Earth) around you. As they say, "If you're comfortable, you're not growing."

I became a Geoscience Ambassador to share my story of educational evolution and let other students know that not having your academic journey fully delineated is perfectly fine, and quite common. Staying open to the possibilities and areas of study that are new to you could lead you to a major or topic that you're quite passionate about. Don't be afraid to go for it!

Contact Me!

Reach out to learn more about the geosciences, about how to become a geoscientist, or to talk about your own story.