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Spencer Shroyer ‘24 (Earth-Space Science) Pursues Passions While Preserving History at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

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When Spencer Shroyer committed to the University of Indianapolis soccer team, he had no idea that his educational journey would one day lead to him preserving one of the most historic findings of fossils.

In addition to receiving an offer to join the UIndy Men’s Soccer team, Spencer was admitted into UIndy’s pre-physical therapy track, with guaranteed admission to the UIndy physical therapy program after his undergraduate studies. However, he quickly realized that physical therapy wasn’t the right fit for him. After his first semester, he switched to the exploring program and took some time to reflect on what he truly wanted to do with his education and career.

“I’d always been fascinated with dinosaurs and life in the past,” said Spencer. “I went to Arizona with a couple of my buddies and realized that I really enjoyed being around nature and earth. I’ve always been environmentally-conscious, and so I wanted something that would mold those two areas together.”

Ideally, Spencer would have loved to major in paleontology, but, like most schools, UIndy did not offer a program at the time. Spencer didn’t let this stop him from pursuing his passions. With the help of his academic advisor and professors, Spencer built a curriculum that was right for him. He ended up majoring in earth-space science, pursued minors in geology and archaeology, and joined the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College

UIndy established a paleontology minor in the spring semester of 2023, as Spencer’s junior year was coming to an end. Thanks to his advisor and faculty’s guidance, Spencer was able to easily add the minor to his degree and only needed to take a few biology courses to fulfill its requirements. As Spencer recalled, “it kind of worked perfectly there.”

During his junior year, Spencer learned about an internship with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which included opportunities to work in their Paleo Prep Lab. While Spencer was interested, he simply didn’t have the time between soccer and his studies. It was only after he retired from soccer that he applied for an internship. Even then, it took two tries to get accepted. 

“I felt pretty discouraged when I didn’t get the summer internship,” recalled Spencer. “When I spoke with the people at the museum, they told me that they remembered my resume from the first time, and took note of it. Then when they saw that I applied again, it showed how much I really wanted it, and they saw some improvements on my resume.”

Fossils extracted from dig sites are typically kept embedded in rocks until they reach a prep lab, like the one in the Indy Children’s Museum. During his internship, Spencer was a part of the team that extracted the fossils from their rocks using specialized hand tools. Spencer himself described the work as “nerve-wracking, but so much fun.”

One of the specimens that Spencer had the opportunity to prep belonged to an Allosaurus found at the Morrison Formation in Wyoming. After years of excavation, this specimen is one of the most complete Allosaurus specimens in history. 

“I got to work on it,” said Spencer. “It was so cool and really rewarding. Plus, in some of the rocks, we found some skin impressions, which is just super rare.”

This was just one of the many memorable experiences during Spencer’s internship. With the open paleo lab window in the Indy Children’s Museum, museum visitors are able to observe and ask questions about the work in real time. Spencer shared his paleontology knowledge with many visitors over the semester. All of these experiences added up to one thing for Spencer.

“The internship reinforced that I want a career in paleontology,” said Spencer. “Because, when I went into it, I didn’t know if I wanted to go to grad school. I thought I might just get an environmental job, like working in the National Park Service or something. And now, after the internship, I’ve applied to seven different grad schools. So it’s just reinforced that this is what I want to do with my life.”

This May, Spencer will once again be part of history as one of the first graduates of the UIndy paleontology minor program. As he awaits responses from graduate schools, he will return to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as occasional staff in the Paleo Prep Lab, where he will continue to pursue his passions while preserving history.