• Harvey Thorleifson, Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • Carrie Jennings, Vice Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • David Bush, Technical Program Chair
    University of West Georgia
  • Jim Miller, Field Trip Chair
    University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Curtis M. Hudak, Sponsorship Chair
    Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC


Paper No. 23
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


POWERS, Michael, Dept. of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #31066, Bowling Green, KY 42101-1066 and CELESTIAN, Aaron J., Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd, Environmental Science and Technology, Bowling Green, KY 42101,

As an undergraduate, research, whether it is instructor-aided or independent, can seem like a daunting task. The reason research projects are so intimidating is because it is such a foreign concept to most undergraduates; involved, or individually planned projects aren’t generally required as part of the normal curriculum and students may also have a hard time knowing where to begin since it is most likely their first time performing research.

The research I’ve been involved with over this past year was ion selectivity studies on minerals with nanoporous structures. These types of structures have the potential to sequester hazardous chemical byproducts due to their very high ion selectivity. Various naturally occurring minerals as well as synthetic minerals were mixed with a number of different ion solutions and tested for structural changes using powder and single crystal X-Ray diffraction and also Raman microscopy. One particular technique that came out with some of the best results was time resolved studies on the Raman. Single crystals were mounted to the end of polyimide tubing and the tubing was then attached to a pump that would constantly run an ion solution over the crystal in an attempt to exchange and sequester cations within the large tunnel-like structures of the nanoporous crystals. The Raman was programmed to continuously collect 400 spectrums as the ion solution was pumped over the crystal. Any changes that took place within the crystals structure could then be seen as a gradual process by going through the spectrums in sequential order.

Through my experiences, I have come to realize that research is not as esoteric as most undergraduates generally concede. Yes, it is specialized and focused on one particular aspect of a subject, but just because it departs from the broad themes of curriculum does not mean that it’s something we can’t undertake. Being with a project from beginning to end is very fulfilling and has helped me to become a much more confident and well-rounded student. Being able to see the application of what you are doing gives added substance to what you learn from course work.

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