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Motherhood, Geology Class and Ancient Volcano Research

A woman in desert with a baby in a backpack
Posted on: April 21, 2020 in Faculty Stories by Debra Cano Ramos

The swift transition from working on campus to teaching online at home was not an easy one for mom and geologist Valbone “Vali” Memeti.

“I have very limited time at home to do what I normally do in terms of research, not to speak about having ‘extra time’ to write proposals and papers,” says Memeti, mother to a 21-month-old daughter who has been out of daycare since March 12. “I feel like I have to juggle two full-time jobs at home now: That of the faculty member and a caregiver.”

Memeti, assistant professor of geological sciences who studies the magma plumbing systems of ancient volcanic eruptions, does the grocery shopping and other errands. Her husband is immunocompromised and must stay home to limit any chances of getting the COVID-19. While he also helps care for their daughter, he teaches geology at another university and also had to put classes online on short notice.

“One of his two classes is at the same time as mine! I honestly barely manage to teach my one class this semester,” Memeti says. She often stays up until midnight to prepare or grade assignments for her large “Introduction to Geology” class and to give feedback to her research students, who are writing their thesis papers from their homes.

Like many of her colleagues, Memeti is having her graduate students defend their master’s thesis through video conferencing.

“Defending a thesis via Zoom is something none of us would have ever dreamed of. It was odd at first, but the advantage is that family and friends of the student, as well as colleagues from all over the country, are able to ‘Zoom’ in and ask questions. That’s cool! But one con is that we can’t gather and celebrate the grad students’ accomplishments, which is a real bummer.”

Memeti is grateful she received release time as a result of teaching an upper-division geology field camp course last summer, so she didn’t have to worry about teaching a second class online this spring semester.

“This whole pandemic situation has caused some anxiety. This semester, my plan was to wrap up my two National Science Foundation-supported research projects and associated research papers, which I need for my tenure portfolio this fall. I am only making baby steps. I also planned to collect some seed data with the CSUF Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activity incentive grant I received and write a new NSF proposal this summer — none of which I have been able to do thus far.

“So no, I don’t have that extra downtime to do extra research stuff. But I am happy when I can manage to do what I am supposed to do — and that my family is healthy and safe.”

Related story links:

A team of Cal State Fullerton geological sciences faculty members and students created “Yosemite National Park: A Story of Fire & Ice”— a free virtual field trip app on Wyoming-based Travel Fire and Ice App

CSUF student researchers conducted fieldwork in Yosemite for their volcano-related research, where Half Dome is made of granodiorite or granite that once crystallized out of magma.

Memeti and her volcanology class study the Panum Crater. The crater erupted only 600 years ago and is part of the larger, still active Long Valley caldera system.

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Debra Cano Ramos

Debra Cano Ramos, writer and communications specialist, is looking for stories from our campus community about being a witness to history. Contact her at

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