Undergrads to Present Research at Geological Society Meeting

Posted: October 9, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Usually the most stressful situation an undergraduate needs to worry about during a semester is presenting in front of a class. This month five undergraduates from the Department of Environmental Science and Policy are making the leap to the professional world and are giving presentations on their research projects at the annual Geological Society of America meeting on Oct. 22 in Philadelphia.

The students are presenting their posters at the regular session of the convention rather than the undergraduate section, according to Mark Krekeler, assistant professor of environmental science and policy.

The students scheduled to present their findings on their projects are junior earth science major Jill Lepp, senior geology major Kim Cone, and seniors Brandi Long, Mikhail Samsonov and Cynthia Tselepis, all earth science majors.

geology students
Student Cynthia Tselepsis works with Professor Mark Krekeler, left, and fellow student Stephen Elmore to collect soil samples.
Creative Services photo

Krekeler, who assisted the students, estimates that about a dozen Mason undergraduates in the Geology Program have been involved in research of some kind during the past two academic years. “That represents about 20 percent of the students in the department,” says Krekeler.

“We are developing this tradition of undergraduate research,” he says. “It is something special that they can draw from to set them apart from everyone else they are competing against for jobs after graduation. Also, it gives them a major advantage in going to graduate school.”

The students are investigating the causes of variation in building properties of geologic materials to better understand geologic environment and also create or improve geology-based environmental technologies.

The projects took Tselepsis to the upper Peninsula of Michigan, where she sampled soil at Tahquamenon Bay, Lake Superior. The other four projects dealt with soil samples from Mauzy, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley; Pendleton County, W.Va., near the Virginia border; the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico; and Dillwyn in central Virginia.

In Dillwyn, Long worked with samples from the Kyanite Mining Corporation, which is the largest kyanite mine in the world. The mine’s products are “used in refractories industry, ceramics, investment casting, kiln furniture, foundries and many other high-temperature applications around the world,” according to the company web site.

Some of the funding for the students’ projects comes from Mason’s Center for Teaching Excellence, according to Krekeler.

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