2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 17
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


IMAI, Tracee, Geology and Planetary Science, Univ of Pittsburgh, 200 SRCC, Pittsburgh, PA 15260 and ZHU, Chen, Earth and Planetary Science, Univ of Pittsburgh, 321 Old Engineering Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, tracee@alumni.carnegiemellon.edu

Summer research in the Hydrological Laboratory provided many opportunities for me as an undergraduate student. The research project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, and involves feldspar weathering in the Navajo sandstone at Black Mesa Arizona and the Santa Fe group in New Mexico. Learning how to use research equipment, such as the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), furthers my understanding both of the available research techniques and how to apply them. In order to determine the composition of the sandstone and the degree of weathering of the grains, thin sections were examined. The SEM allows the grains to be viewed at a magnification of up to 250,000X. At the same time, spectrum analysis can be performed on a selected area of the slide. Results of the spectrum analysis indicate that the sandstone samples are approximately 98% quartz. The remainder is primarily potassium feldspar. The SEM and other tools are useless, however, if the data cannot be analyzed. Therefore, I learned even more by evaluating the images and creating short, informal reports on the findings. Most importantly, I was given the opportunity to work independently on a given project. I learned to manage my time and to develop general problem solving skills. Finally, I was introduced to many scientists in the field. This allowed me to gain contacts in the field and an introduction to the current research that is being pursued.

One rewarding experience as a faculty member is from mentoring undergraduate students, who have worked in my laboratory on research projects supported from external grants. It is a good feeling to see undergraduate students learn a great deal of skills, become interested in science and geology, and move on to pursue graduate degrees. My work has also become more productive with the help of these students. In general, I find that providing undergraduate students with skills such as creating digital presentations and problem solving are important. Finding the right balance between independence and direction needs considerable thought and planning, and often presents a challenge.