Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM
USING X-RAY COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY TO PROVIDE UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES
X-ray computed tomography (XRCT) is a nondestructive method that is used in numerous research disciplines, including Earth Sciences. Acquiring data is relatively simple, cost effective, and requires little (if any) sample preparation. 2D radiographs are collected and then reconstructed to render a 3D representation of the sample. The resulting 3D volume is useful for both visual inspection and for more quantitative analysis. After separating the object of interest from the rest of the sample a variety of measurements are possible. At the University of Minnesota (UMN) the XRCT lab has become an integral part of undergraduate research. Research projects are tailored to the experience level, time constraints, and interests of the student(s). Several Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) interns (a National Science Foundation program) have recently finished 10 week summer research projects that included XRCT data. We also have students from nearby colleges that are using XRCT as part of their senior research projects. In some cases XRCT is used to develop and test techniques prior to field work. This allows the student to collect better data in while in the field, it maximizes their chance to succeed, and gives them confidence in the field. After collecting samples the student will come back to the lab to scan their samples and use our image processing lab to analyze their data. For longer term projects students can enroll in directed studies classes and work in the lab on an ongoing basis, meeting periodically with their advisor. Working in the XRCT lab has allowed students to gain valuable research experience, attend conferences to present their results, and in the near future will likely allow students to coauthor papers with their advisor. The 3D aspect of XRCT helps students better visualize and understand problems in Earth Sciences. I will present results from several students that have recently, or are currently, using the UMN XRCT lab.