Charity Lander

Charity Lander

Honors, achievements, and special recognition:

  • Association for Women Geoscientists, Osage Chapter- Sean S. Thompson Service Research Scholarship –2012
  • Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship – 2012
  • Kansas Geological Foundation Scholarship – 2011
  • 2nd Place Oral Presentation G-Hawk Student Symposium, University of Kansas – 2011
  • Ernest Angino Geochemistry Scholarship, University of Kansas –2011
  • NSF GK-12 Fellowship –2009-2011
  • Patterson Fellowship, University of Kansas – 2008

How I became interested in my field:

After my parents divorced, my mom, sister and I ended up living in a really bad situation, where it was not safe to go outside. I desperately missed that connection to the outside world. My mom had checked out a NOVA video on volcanoes when I was 9 yrs old. Watching the red hot lava poor into the ocean and be quenched into pillows was so beautiful; it captivated my imagination. I made the decision then that I would get a PhD in geology so that I could study volcanos all over the world. Since then, my interests in geology have diversified, but I have remained passionate about understanding the natural world.

An honor, achievement or accomplishment that is most meaningful to me and why:

The NSF GK-12 Fellowship has become one of my most meaningful awards, because it helped me to develop concrete skills to connect my desire to serve my fellow man with my scientific pursuits.

Over my 2.5 year tenure as a GK-12 fellow, I had the opportunity to work with a number of budding scientists, both GK-12 students and teachers, who taught me how to come out of my shell and become a science communicator. My goal is to empower men and women through science, in much the same way as I have been empowered.

Someone who has been a role model for me and why:

I have been blessed with the opportunity to surround myself with wonderful people inspire me and help me develop qualities I think are important.

Some of my role models include: Neil deGrasse Tyson (science communicator), Jennifer Roberts (advising/ work-life balance), Karen Francis and Kerri-Leigh Grady (who taught me to be both fierce and flexible as a military spouse), Ilya Tabakh (seeing hidden possibilities in everything) and most importantly, Geoffrey Lander (who taught me the true meaning of unconditional love).

Someone who has been influential or had a significant impact on my life:

Many people intervened at key points in my journey to help me become the person I am today. Both of my parents encouraged me to develop an interest in math and science early on. When I exceeded their understanding of the subjects, they reached out into nature and to museums and libraries to facilitate my interests.

Mrs. MacFarland and Mrs. Seigferth provided a warm and loving school environment in which I could learn. This was important because K-3 was spent in multiple different schools and I needed some stability in my life. Mrs. Hodges encouraged my musical talent. Mr. Henry encouraged me to stick with Earth Science in 7th grade when I considered giving up. Mrs. Wilcox took time to help me improve my math skills in high school. Dr. Embree taught me to “stay broad” in geology, which has served me well as I have explored different aspects of my field. Dr. Dilek taught me to be my own person as a scientist. Dr. Kilroy taught me to pursue adventure whether or not others want to join me. Dr. Case helped me learn to be a better science communicator. Dr. Roberts taught me a little “mandatory floundering” is necessary in the pursuit of knowledge. Geoffrey Lander has provided critical stability to my chaotic life and supported me as I have pursued my career and educational goals. I would not be at KU getting my PhD without his support.

There are so many other people who deserve recognition as well.

My favorite KU memory:

Weekly coffee with my co-advisor Jen: Over the past 4 years, my relationship with Jen has evolved from student-professor to more and more like colleagues. Some mornings our meetings are strictly dissertation related, but sometimes our conversations are wide-ranging, often covering issues I worry about in relation to my future career. I count her as one of my dearest friends and greatest examples at KU. I wouldn’t trade our coffee time for anything.

An important life lesson I have learned:

I find that sometimes problems that seem overwhelming can be easily solved if you take a step back and rest your mind for a few minutes. When your mind is at peace, you unlock the ability to tackle seemingly impossible problems.

If I had a sister just entering college, I would want her to know…

Treasure the moments in your life when someone tells you, “You cannot do/achieve your dreams.” When embraced as moments of inspiration, you give yourself the intellectual and emotional space to move beyond what others believe is possible.

A favorite quote or saying and why it is meaningful to me:

I have learned… that if one advances confidently in his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
– Henry David Thoreau

I found this quote when I was a kid and every bit of me wanted to give up and give in to all the horror that comprised my life. It gave me the courage to believe that even if I couldn’t see the destination and life I sought, I could get there by putting one foot in front of the other. It was amazing, the day after I passed my comprehensive exams, to wake up and realize that I am living the life of which I had always dreamed: a career in geology, a husband that loves me, and a stable roof over my head.

As a result, I have embraced a new quote:

Pursuing your dreams is like climbing a mountain: When you get to the top you should remember to give a hand up to the next person coming along.
– Florence Bascom, the first US female geologist