Solid as a Rock

Liz Plascencia '15

Photo by of Will Kochtitzky '16.

Elizabeth Plascencia ’16 

Growing up, Elizabeth Plascencia ’16 was never far from the Los Angeles region’s breathtaking natural views—from mountain ranges to coastal cliffs and sandy shores. That inspiring environment sparked a passion for earth sciences and a dream she’s realizing as a Posse Foundation and National Science Foundation STEP scholar, Robert Allan Jansen Memorial Student-Faculty Research award recipient and study-abroad student who studied volcanoes in Iceland and Canada as part of an international student-faculty research team. Learn about her little-known talent as an amateur dolphin-whisperer, her love of longboarding and her key to a successful life.


Earth sciences.

On choosing a major:

I grew up in Los Angeles, Calif., admiring coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, perpetual earthquakes and towering mountains and that sparked my interest in learning how to protect the earth’s resources. I believe that in order to do that, we must first understand, respect, and learn from the earth systems. It’s rock solid from there.

Clubs and organizations:

Geological Society of Dickinson College (president), Department of Earth Sciences (research assistant, laboratory teaching assistant), Office of Global Study & Engagement (student assistant), WDCV 88.3 (DJ, executive board), The Peddler (barista), Department of Art & Art History (art model) and Social Justice House.


Posse Foundation scholarship, National Science Foundation STEP scholar and the Robert Allan Jansen Memorial Student-Faculty Research Award.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far:

If you’re curious, just ask. Dialogue is key. 

Favorite professor:

Without a doubt, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences Benjamin Edwards. Ben is a mentor, educator, volcano climber, igneous petrologist and bear enthusiast. I began conducting research with Ben after my first year at Dickinson. My passion for the earth sciences has only grown through my interactions with him.

Student-faculty research:


I spent the beginning of my first summer after freshmen year in Iceland with Ben Edwards, conducting pillow-lava research. Later that summer, I traveled with [Joseph Priestley Professor of Natural Philosophy] Marcus Key and three other Dickinson students to conduct research in Baffin Island, Canada, and I spent last summer in Northern British Columbia, Canada, conducting the second tier of pillow-lava research.

Favorite book:

Any science textbook.

Favorite movie:

Across the Universe.

Favorite place on campus:

In an Adirondack chair on the academic quad.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Egg-white omelet with extra spinach.

As a kid, I wanted to be …

… an astronaut. My dad still calls me “Astro” to this day. He jokes that, [because of my major,] he should start to call me “Rocky.”

Little-known talents:

I can mimic a dolphin whistle so well that once, while I was at SeaWorld, I was asked to stop, because I was confusing the animals. Prior to deciding on Dickinson, I was on my way to train for women’s downhill longboard racing. You can still catch me flying by on my longboard, on my way to Kaufman Hall.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Ellen DeGeneres.

A perfect world is …

… environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. 

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Published October 14, 2014