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Home > Research & Collections > News > Spending the Summer with Dinosaurs

Spending the Summer with Dinosaurs

The Proyecto Dinosaurios internship inspires the next generation of scientists

The 2017 Proyecto Dinosaurios students take a break from excavating dinosaur fossils from the “Gnatalie quarry” in Utah. Photo by Alyssa Bell.


As kids, many of us dreamed of someday being paleontologists (though we may not have known that word yet) — digging up ancient fossils and studying them in the halls of a museum or university. But as years go by, many don’t pursue this career path, not for lack of interest, but rather for lack of information: without mentors and role models, it can be an intimidating and mysterious field to enter.

An internship in the Dinosaur Institute aims to change that. It’s called Proyecto Dinosaurios. Funded by the Ahmanson Foundation, this summer program encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in paleontology, biology, geology, and Earth science.

In its fourth year, Proyecto Dinosaurios welcomed six community college students from the Los Angeles area, representing Santa Monica College, Cerritos College, Long Beach City College, and Pasadena City College. Al Armenta, Georgina Diaz, Christian Levine, Curtis Ortega, Alex Shoup, and Cynthia Tong spent the summer digging up fossils in the field, preparing specimens in the lab, and networking with researchers. It provided them with valuable experience in paleontology, and inspired each in their own way to continue down their educational path toward a career in the sciences — whether that means being an anthropology professor, planetary geophysicist, or Dinosaur Institute Curator here at NHMLA.

At the culmination of their internship, the cohort of 2017 shared their biggest takeaways from their summer with dinosaurs.

A photo of Alex Shoup digging up fossils, saying "spending a summer interning with the Dinosaur Institute definitely made me realize I am making the right choice, and that this is exactly what I want to be doing."

A photo of Al Armenta at a dinosaur excavation site, saying "Proyecto Dinosaurios gave me the determination to continue going to school, and helped me take a direction towards what my family never thought would be possible."

A photo of Christian Levine next to a dinosaur fossils, saying "Proyecto Dinosaurios opened a whole new set of doors for my future that wouldn't be available otherwise."

A photo of Curtis Ortega working in a dinosaur excavation, saying "Proyecto Dinosaurios was not only a life-changing experience that gave me assurance in my career choice, but also connected me with the hard-working and intelligent workers of the Museum itself."

A photo of Cynthia Tong sorting microfossils, saying "Proyecto Dinosaurios exposed me to all kinds of jobs in the geosciences and has made me more confident about navigating through my career pursuits."

A photo of Georgina Diaz working in a dinosaur excavation pit, saying "Proyecto Dinosaurious showed me a path I didn't know was possible and gave me a clear view of what I wanted."

Follow Proyecto Dinosaurios on Instagram and Twitter to see more from this groundbreaking internship program.



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