Love of the mountains and geology leads graduate to a PhD

December 2, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Alexandra Pye has always had a love of the mountains and learning about the natural world. Originally from London, Pye says conducting fieldwork in the Alps for her undergraduate degree was what inspired her to further her education. Alexandra Pye stands on the edge of a high ridge above Horseshoe Bend. Alexandra Pye stands on the edge of a high ridge above Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona. Photo courtesy Alexandra Pye Download Full Image

“I was intrigued by the fact that small details in rocks recorded the formation of the Alps. I could keep learning more about the formation of landscapes I loved, and maybe do similar work for a career,” said Pye. This fall, Pye will graduate with a PhD in geological sciences from Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“My love of geology originated from my love for being outside — I was surprised by how much I have enjoyed being in the lab, which quickly became where I conducted most of my research. I have found the analytical part of my research fascinating and a definite high point of my PhD,” said Pye.

Pye experienced the insurmountable amount of work to complete for graduation and advised others, “Take one day at a time and keep chipping away at it; eventually you will be on the other side, and it will all be worth it! When it does feel incredibly hard, remember why you started doing the degree in the first place and always ask those around you for help if you need it.”

Her advisor, Kip Hodges, foundation professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, recognized that determination and enthusiasm.

“Alex has been an exemplary student over a period that has been unusually challenging for all,” said Hodges. “Her work involved extensive field work in Nepal at a time when the pandemic restricted worldwide travel. Her work is also very laboratory intensive, and COVID-related laboratory access issues meant that she had to develop an aggressive analytical campaign when she could get back at it. Through it all, she maintained an extremely positive outlook and completed an exceptional and unusually broad dissertation project.”

Pye credits Hodges for teaching her a great deal about geology, science in general, statistics, writing and how to navigate the academic world. Her decision to apply to ASU was based on her desire to work with Hodges.

After graduation, Pye will remain at ASU as a postdoc, studying lunar meteorites to learn about the timing of impact events on the moon. We asked her to share a few thoughts about her time here at ASU. 

Question: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

Answer: My favorite spot on campus is the green area by the Biodesign buildings and ISTB4.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would definitely tackle climate change. We are reaching the point of no return, and not enough is being done to avoid this. 

Catherine Shappell

Digital communications specialist, School of Earth and Space Exploration


Outstanding graduate helped make web game with NASA

December 2, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

When deciding on which degree to pursue in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, Marcus Maczynski found himself debating between computer science and software engineering. Marcus Maczynski headshot Marcus Macsynski, an ASU Online software engineering student in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence. Photo courtesy Marcus Macsynski Download Full Image

“In the end, I feel like software engineering was more directly applicable to the work I want to do,” he says. “It helps turn ‘programming’ into more of an intentional and well-thought-out engineering discipline.”

As an online student, Maczynski wanted to ensure his college experience would be rewarding and fulfilling. 

“I wanted to find a flexible program that I could work into my schedule while also being given the same opportunities as an in-person student,” Maczynski says. “ASU’s fully online options and half-semester concentrated classes allowed me to focus more on the subjects I was pursuing.”

As Maczynski explored software engineering in the Fulton Schools, he found himself reflecting on the decision he made to earn his engineering degree.

“There were two moments where I felt like I had made the right choice by attending ASU,” Maczynski says. “The first was during a data structures and algorithms course where I found the key information I was missing when I tried to teach myself programming.”

“The second was during my capstone working with other engineers and feeling satisfied that a reusable piece of code I had developed was being adopted by others,” he says. “It felt great.”

During his time at ASU, Maczynski participated in the Psyche Mission, a NASA space mission to visit the Psyche asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. He worked with mission partner Jet Proportion Laboratory, or JPL, as part of his capstone project, making an outreach-oriented web game.

“I never imagined that my interests in NASA, space, video gaming and programming would align so well in a capstone,” Maczynski says. “Getting to listen to JPL guest speakers, having an inside look at an actual mission to space and working with others on a project aimed at increasing awareness of that mission transformed what was supposed to be school work into something far more interesting.”

After graduating with summa cum laude honors, Maczynski will continue his current role as an operations leader for a major video game company and remain in Southern California.

“I really enjoy creating fun experiences that bring others together, and I get to do this in my current role,” he says. “I am looking forward to being able to contribute more meaningfully in this environment.”

MORE: Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ fall 2022 class

Annelise Krafft

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering