Looking for students

Hey UW students:

Are you looking for an undergrad research project, either for capstone credit (for UW Tacoma Environmental Science or Studies students) or for experience? We’re looking for new lab members! Here are a few ways you can get involved:

  1. We’re finishing up some work using magnetic properties to look at sediment transport in mud from the Bengal Fan. We need someone who’s interested in doing some electron microscopy, and someone else who wants to hone their lab skills by separating sediment into size fractions (sand, silt, and clay) and analyzing magnetic properties. Both projects involve fun with big magnets, getting muddy in the lab, and going to the Geological Society of America conference in October.  (The image from this post is a SEM element map from former student Aaron Burr’s capstone project; red is iron, blue is calcium, and green is silicon.)
  2. Anybody interested in using magnetism to answer local environmental questions? Starting in late August, I’ll be looking for some students to determine magnetite content in some soil cores for a groundwater hydrology study.
  3. We’re also hoping to start some experimental projects and fieldwork this year aimed at learning how transport through natural (river and dry grassland) and built environments might change the size distribution of magnetic particles in sediment. These projects are going to have some outreach and citizen-science components.

Contact me for further details: paselkin at uw dot edu.


Coming Autumn 2017: Earth Materials!

Are you curious about how volcanoes work, what’s inside a mountain belt, and what would happen if the oceans dried up?

Earth Materials (T GEOS 347, SLN 22043) explores the rocks and minerals that make up our planet: how they form, what they mean, where they’re found, and how we analyze them. We will investigate all parts of the rock cycle, through our focus will mostly be on igneous and metamorphic rocks, the processes that make them, and the minerals in them.

Earth Materials is a prerequisite for many graduate programs in geoscience, as well as a required course for a WA professional geologist’s license. It counts as a geoscience lab course (“List G”) for the Geoscience Option in the Environmental Science BS curriculum.

Things you will get to do in Earth Materials:

  • 3-D print crystal models
  • Examine thin sections – paper-thin slices of rock – in a polarized light microscope
  • Make your own thin sections
  • Wow your friends by being able to identify hundreds of minerals and rocks
  • Use an electron microscope and an x-ray diffractometer
  • Walk on Earth’s mantle and ocean crust (field trip!)
  • Distinguish between types of asbestos
  • Tell a countertop salesperson which slabs are really granite
  • Expand your knowledge of geology by connecting it with physics and chemistry

Earth Materials has T GEOS/TESC 117 (Physical Geology), TESC 151/ T CHEM 152 (Chem II), and T MATH 110 (Intro Stats) as prerequisites. Contact me if you are enrolled in Chem II or Stats and want to take the course.

Here is a tentative course schedule:

The class meets Tu/Th 12:50-2:55 in SCI 209, and F 1:30-4:00 for lab. Please register ASAP so that we can make sure that the class fills!

Blog Projects

Getting Involved in Undergraduate Research

A Suzuki Jeep-like vehicle with a bunch of no-good geologists inside.
The “Jeep” from my undergrad research days. Photo by Steve Dornbos.

Almost 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to be a student participant in two undergraduate research programs – the Keck geology consortium and Caltech’s SURF program (full disclosure: I didn’t participate in all aspects of the SURF program). The Keck program in particular involved a summer spent mapping and studying gabbro [1] on the island of Cyprus – a fragment of old ocean crust. That project introduced me to independent fieldwork, paleomagnetism, study design in geology, and a large network of friends and mentors. Some members of that network would later become collaborators and my Ph.D. advisors. Many of my friends became geoscientists.

If you are an undergraduate science student and have the chance to do a research project, I can’t stress how important it is to take that opportunity. Whether or not you end up in science, you develop experience, skills, and personal connections that will help you later in life. If nothing else, you get to find out if a particular area of science is right for you. While this experience is associated with a bit of a sacrifice – particularly for many of my students who have family and/or work obligations during the summer – there are some programs that will work with you to make it easier. Some offer a stipend, and others might be located near where you live or work and have flexible hours.

How do you find a good program? Here are some national programs in geoscience and environmental science that I recommend. If you’re going with a different one, I recommend talking to the faculty members involved to get a feel for how they mentor their students, how many students are involved, and what they think you’d get from the program. Also talk to former students if you can.

  • GeoCorps: Paid internship opportunities to do geoscience in the National Parks and other federal sites. Requirements and application dates vary.
  • The Summer of Applied Geophysics Experience through Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico. A fantastic hands-on experience in environmental geophysics in the field. Requires a year of physics and calculus. Application date unknown.
  • The Keck Consortium is still around! Although it’s run by faculty from liberal arts colleges, students from elsewhere have applied. However, outside applications are not an option for the upcoming cycle due to budget cuts. Requirements depend on the project. Application date unknown.
  • The UNAVCO Research Experiences in Solid Earth Sciences for Students: learn about GPS, LIDAR, and other geodetic (earth-measurement) techniques in the field. Requirements include “some” physics, math, and geoscience, but are not very strict, as far as I can tell. Application opens November 16, 2015.
  • Undergraduate Studies in Earthquake Information Technology through the Southern California Earthquake Center and the University of Southern California. This program is unique because it focuses not just on seismology, but on earthquake hazard communication, and on forming interdisciplinary teams to build ways (often online) to communicate earthquake hazard effectively. Application dates and requirements unknown.

Please let me know about other opportunities in the comments. I’ll try to keep this list up to date when I find out more information about the programs above!