Sierra Davis

  • Sierra Davis and Dr. Hovan in the lab
  • Degree: Geology (2015)

    Major: Geology

    Currently: Graduate Student, Oceanic Researcher


  • Sierra Davis didn’t plan on finishing college at IUP, but she quickly found a home in the IUP Geoscience Department.

    “I was accepted to another university and thought I might transfer there after a semester or two at IUP,” she said, “but I got involved in research through the IUP Geoscience Department in my first semester and felt a sense of community right away.”

    Sierra had taken geology in high school and attended the Pennsylvania Gas Expo, a regional event held at IUP, where she met Steve Hovan, the geoscience professor who would become her advisor.

    Research Beginning Freshman Year

    “I told him I would be coming to IUP in the fall and that I was interested in geology, and he later offered me a position in his lab,” Sierra said. “I worked there ever since.”

    Hovan has a special interest in oceans and the dust beneath the ocean floor that holds clues to the evolution of the earth and its climate systems.

    Through her work in his lab, Sierra got a better idea of the type of research and career she wanted to pursue. She did an internship in Rhode Island that she said helped to prepare her for a career in oceanography.

    Testing Water Near Marcellus Shale Extraction

    Hovan also recommended Sierra for a cross-disciplinary project at IUP that involves testing the water quality of a reservoir near Indiana County. The tests were requested because of Marcellus shale extraction around the reservoir, which provides drinking water to more than 100,000 people.

    For Sierra, gaining this much experience at IUP was a welcome surprise, and she believes it prepared her well for graduate school. She’s currently a student in the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.

    Many Opportunities for Undergrads

    She said of IUP, “Not only are the classes great, very interesting, but the research opportunities are amazing. When I think about all the things I did as an undergraduate, I can hardly believe it. I can’t imagine that any other university would be able to give me these kinds of opportunities.”

    Sierra also served as vice president of the Geological Society of IUP, a group that brings together students interested in geosciences for trips, outreach programs, and other events.

    She considered her ties within the department to be reminiscent of a family.

    “I was extremely close to my professors and students in the department,” she said. “We helped and supported each other and pushed each other to work hard. It’s just an awesome place to be.”