Exploring Two Worlds

Billy Irving

William Irving ’19

William Irving ’19 majors in earth sciences and Russian, and he’s traveled to far-off places to dive deep into both subjects. Last fall, he spent a semester in Moscow, and last summer, he studied volcanoes in British Columbia. This summer, he’ll use GPS and UAV mapping to research Icelandic glaciers. Below, he discusses why he chose Dickinson, his little-known musical talent and more.


Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.


Earth sciences and Russian.

Clubs and organizations:  

Tree Club, Treehouse, Writing Center, The Square, Tritons and Dickinson Sustainable Investment Group.


Alpha Lambda Delta.

Favorite book:

White Noise by Don DeLillo.

Favorite movie:

Repo Man, starring Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton.

On choosing Dickinson:    

Dickinson is smaller than the high school I attended. I was really interested in a small class size and the opportunity to make personal connections with my professors. I also liked visiting the school. I liked the campus—the limestone and the combination of different architectural styles—and the academics were really exciting; I liked all the research opportunities past students had.

Favorite place on campus:

The Treehouse.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Broccoli cheddar soup, especially when they have the bread bowls.

On choosing my majors:

Earth sciences: The summer before my first year, an alumnus of the earth sciences department emailed me. Until then, I was sure I’d be an environmental science major, but the email made me begin to reconsider. I did always prefer the geological aspects of environmental science, but I never realized I could study that by itself. I took an intro earth sciences course in the fall and ended up declaring that spring.

Russian: I took French for four years in high school, but when I took the Dickinson French placement exam, I got placed into 101 and really didn’t want to start all over again. I decided I should choose a new language, and I always liked the way Cyrillic looked in Soviet art, so I picked Russian. The language ended up coming to me much easier than French did, and I fell in love with it. After being convinced by the Russian department to go abroad, I figured I may as well major. 

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… a factory worker. Specifically, I wanted to build cakes on an assembly line in a cake factory, which I imagined was a real thing.

On studying abroad:

I studied abroad in Moscow, Russia, for the fall semester of 2018. The highlight of my experience was travelling to Georgia for a weekend with my group. It’s an incredibly beautiful country with delicious food. I also met a lot of interesting people in Moscow, with whom I still communicate.

Little-known hobby/talent:

I play banjo. During the summer, I play with a group of high school friends. Our band is called Chomsky.

Post-Dickinson plans:

I hope to conduct research combining my interests in earth sciences and Russian, studying the volcanology of Kamchatka. If I am accepted by Fulbright, I will receive funding to study in Russia for a year after I graduate from Dickinson. I am also considering applying to graduate schools, possibly to a university abroad in Canada, the United Kingdom or the island of Svalbard.

About my research:

Last summer, I went to British Columbia with my professor to study the volcano Hoodoo Mountain. We also did some glaciological work on two adjacent glaciers. It was my first time using some geological techniques, like GPS and UAV mapping. It was really remote, but a lot of fun.

This summer I’ll go to Iceland to collect data for my senior thesis. I am studying a ridge near Ok Volcano. I am trying to determine whether the eruption that produced this ridge was glaciovolcanic and how exactly the feature was formed. I’ll be using a lot of different techniques and methods, and I’m excited to experience this type of field research.

Read more Student Snapshots.


Published May 24, 2018