April 27, 2021
Written By: Siandhara Bonnet
Scott Beeler never saw himself moving to South Dakota, let alone living in the state.
After he finished his PhD and was offered a job at South Dakota Mines where his girlfriend was set to work, though, his plans were set.
“I ended up liking it a lot,” Beeler said. “All the outdoor things out here are big. … After living in St. Louis, which I like St. Louis a lot, but it’s not the most exciting outdoors-wise, it made me sort of realize I wanted to get back somewhere you can drive 10 minutes and be on an amazing hike.”
Beeler is a research scientist with a focus in analytical chemistry at Mines where he runs various instruments, including mass spectrometers, for those on campus.
He said the school has great instrumentation, but his favorite thing about his job is learning about other topics, like metallurgy.
Beeler said he sort of fell into geology.
“When I started out going to college, I wanted to be a lawyer, I guess,” he said.
Growing up, his dad took him and his brother out hiking and fishing. Beeler said he took an intro class to geology once he got to college and enjoyed it.
“The job is basically going around and looking at cool stuff outside and learning how the world works,” he said. “That’s how I got into it. I sort of just fell into doing research.”
Beeler said by the time he was a senior in his undergraduate, he knew he wanted to be a researcher.
He graduated with his Bachelor’s in 2014 from the University of Tennessee and his PhD in 2019 from Washington University. Beeler said he researched biogeochemistry for his PhD research, specifically stromatolites, or formations created by microorganisms.
He said he studied a modern system where stromatolites were forming to understand what information was preserved in the microorganisms through geochemical signatures. He keeps an example of the formations on his desk, along with samples from his fieldwork and from workshops in Nevada, Catalina Island off the coast of South Carolina and Argentina.
Beeler said his field site during his PhD research was in the Andes Mountains.
“I’ve been sort of all over the place to do stuff,” he said.
Beeler said it’s fun working on projects at South Dakota Mines, like manganese nodule research, that will have a more immediate impact than his academic work during his PhD.
He said he hopes to pursue some of his own projects soon that could take him to the state’s Badlands.