Alexa Terrazas

Meet recent UCLA graduate, Alexa Terrazas who majored in Geology. This past Spring, Alexa was awarded the Undergraduate Science Journal’s Best Physical Science Article for her article titled, “Evolution of Hydroclimates in Southeast Arizona Over the Past 20,000 Years.” She was also awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue her PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA this Fall.

As an undergraduate Alexa was a part of Dr. Aradhna Tripati’s lab in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.


How did you first get involved in your research?

I found Dr. Aradhna Tripati’s Climate and Geochemistry Lab by participating in the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. As a geology major, I became interested in using the geological record to reconstruct past climate states (paleoclimate), which Dr. Tripati and her group specialized in. I contacted her in the fall of my junior year and expressed my interest in participating in research.


How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

Overall, my research experience at UCLA has been an extremely fun and positive one. I was able to get both field and laboratory research experience, which has been invaluable to my training as an aspiring earth system scientist. I was also mentored by graduate student Alexandrea Arnold throughout undergrad, which was an incredible opportunity to engage with more experienced scientists and learn how to use the machines in the lab.


What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

For students thinking about getting involved in research, I’d recommend looking through the different faculty researchers in your department of interest. From there, read a couple of their papers to get an idea of what kinds of questions they are interested in addressing. Lastly, I’d reach out to those faculty members and express interest in their research as an undergraduate student. Getting started is difficult, but once you do, it’s wonderful!


What are your career goals?

I plan to further my education in the earth sciences by pursuing my Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA in the fall of 2021. I was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue my doctoral degree and probe questions that interest me in my field in my research. As an undergraduate, I investigated how atmospheric dynamics that influence the water cycle evolved in the southwestern United States since the Last Glacial Maximum, roughly 20,000 years ago, by using geochemical proxies in concert with modeling to see if climate models are capturing trends that are observed in the geologic record. In graduate school, I hope to continue this work and apply our methodology for the LGM to other geologic periods like the Pliocene, which occurred 5 to 3 million years ago.