2019 GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research

In 2019, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citations from the nominators (PDF) and join us in congratulating our sixth group of student awardees in the history of this award!

Award certificate

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2017 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

The seventh recipient of the GeoCUR Undergraduate Research Mentor Award is Earth and Environmental Science class with Brannon AndersenBrannon Andersen from the Earth and Environmental Sciences at Furman University.  The Award recognizes his longstanding excellence in and commitment to ‘teaching through research’ by embedding research in the curriculum, his collaborative work across disciplines that has provided significant research experiences to more than 300 undergraduates, and his leadership in promoting and embodying the ideal for undergraduate research.

See the Furman University Press Release here.

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2018 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

The 8th recipient of the GeoCUR Undergraduate Research Mentor Award is Colin Laroque, Colin-Laroque-150X200a professor in the Department of Soil Science in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan.  He is an interdisciplinary scientist, with a specialty in using dendrochronology to understand past climates and an outstanding prolific undergraduate research mentor. Laroque fosters, and sustains undergraduate research through curiosity-driven experiential learning, leading to publication and ColinLaroquepresentation.  He engages and mentors many students through programs like his course-based First year Research Experiences (FYRE), integration of research into his undergraduate classes and extensive participation of students as researchers in his MAD (Mistik Askiwin Dendrochronology) Lab.

See the University of Saskatchewan press release here.

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Councilor – Ginny Peterson

GP irelandGinny Peterson is a Professor and former Head of the Geology Department at Grand Valley State University.  She has served as a GeoCUR Councilor for many years and is currently serving as Division Chair.

“My own experience as an undergraduate researcher was transformative for me and I greatly enjoy and value the opportunity to serve in the role of mentor/collaborator to undergraduate scientists. Throughout my academic career I have been persistent in mentoring dozens of undergraduate research students in both collaborative (REU) and individual projects. Both my students and I benefit significantly from doing science together and it has served to enhance my passion as an educator and scientist. I have been a faculty member at two different Primarily Undergraduate Institutions and recently served 6 years as the head of the Geology Department at GVSU.  I have taken a leadership role at both institutions in departmental curricular revision, with an aim to better integrate development of research skills across the curriculum.  In addition to my work with CUR, I currently serve as a facilitator for the NAGT Traveling Workshop Program; facilitating department level discussions, action planning and assessment.  I have also served as external evaluator for other geosciences departments.”

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Councilor – David Szymanski

Dave Szymanski is an associate professor of geology and Chair of the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences at Bentley
University. He’s been a CUR member since 2012 and became a GeoCUR councilor in 2018.

“I work mainly with undergraduate business students and I teach sustainability at the intersection of earth science, policy, and business. As a geologist and chemist, I understand the power of research as a tool for teaching science. But more importantly, research provides a way of knowing that’s required to make good decisions in politics, policy, and business. No single discipline has all the answers and the research process humbles you quickly if you think otherwise. Undergraduate teaches the skills of inquiry and discovery, but it also develops skills that serve students in any career and it prepares them for citizenship. I joined CUR to become a better guide for students in this process of undergraduate research; I became a GeoCUR councilor to help my colleagues do the same.”

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Councilor – Ken Brown

Ken Brown is a Teaching Assistant Professor at West Virginia University. He began serving as a GeoCUR Councilor in 2017.

“As a Teaching Assistant Professor at WVU, one of my primary goals is to provide a memorable classroom experience that will have a strong, positive impact on my students. Thus, one of the best parts of teaching/mentoring is helping my students gain a deeper appreciation and awareness for the Earth and its many components. By helping my students understand how our planet works, they will be better prepared to solve the geologic and environmental problems of the future. My current research projects combinefieldwork, elemental and isotopic analyses, geochronology, and high-spatial resolution microanalytical techniques to place important constraints on challenging geologic and environmental problems.  Currently, I have several research projects that my undergraduate students and I are exploring. 

One of these projects is aimed at understanding the origins of exceptionally large potassium-feldspar crystals (>4cm) that are found within rocks that represent the once-active roots of ancient volcanic systems.  Although potassium feldspar is a common rock-forming mineral, the formation of large, perfectly-shaped potassium feldspar crystals has remained a long-standing controversy in igneous petrology for nearly 100 years. My students and I are using detailed microscopy and geochemistry to test competing hypotheses regarding the enigmatic origins of these crystals.

I am also working with undergraduate students to solve environmental problems. More specifically, my students and I are currently evaluatingthe spatial distribution of heavy metal contaminants (Pb, Hg, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn, and Cd) in soils within Morgantown, WV.  Because Morgantown is located within a region with a well-documented legacy of coal burning and mining operations, this city is an excellent location to evaluate the links between heavy metal contamination caused by coal burning and its impacts on human health.”

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Councilor – Kristina Walowski

Kristina Walowski is an Assistant Professor of Geology at Middlebury College. She started as a GeoCUR Council in 2018.

“For my research, I primarily utilize melt inclusions (tiny blobs of magma trapped in crystals) and mafic minerals (olivine, pyroxene, and spinel) to study a variety of magmatic processes from magma reservoir evolution and eruption dynamics, to mantle melting and volatile recycling in the mantle. This interest in magmatic processes began while studying for my B.S. in Geology at UCLA, and was solidified during my undergraduate research experience for which I explored the volatile history of the Bishop Tuff as recorded by apatite. This positive and formative experience was the main reason I chose to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon, where I completed my Ph.D. in 2015. Through my experience in research as an undergraduate, I gained confidence in my ability as an independent scientist and fell in love with the excitement of discovery and the pursuit of knowledge. Now, as a new faculty member at an undergraduate-only institution, Middlebury College, I aim to provide my students with the same opportunity. Integrating students into my research and watching them grow through Middlebury’s year-long research thesis has been one of the most rewarding parts of my job. My interest in improving my mentoring practices and becoming connected to a broader community led me to CUR, and as a first-term GeoCUR Councilor, I am excited to expand my scholarship in science education and help promote undergraduate research opportunities in the geosciences.”

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Incredible! #Repost @cofcnaturalhistory with @get_repost ・・・ Student volunteers and researchers revealing the past - as recently highlighted by @postandcourier! There is so much to do in order to keep CCNHM running that we rely on a small corps of student volunteers, docents, and junior scientists to maintain CCNHM as a center of natural history at @collegeofcharleston. Visitors are most familiar with our student docents - but may not be as familiar with the behind the scenes activities. Our volunteers are primarily students and retirees, and are responsible for cleaning fossils off, reassembling broken fossils, and producing mounts that keep the fossils safe during long term storage. Geology Junior Suzanne Grantham (top) is currently working on reassembling a fossil dolphin - well, it's actually two dolphins that died near eachother, and their bones became fragmented and the fragments mixed together. (...fun) We have one student researcher at present: Bailey Fallon (bottom), a junior in Biology, who is studying fossil leatherback sea turtles from the Charleston area, and has already had her first research manuscript go through peer review! Next semester Suzanne is considering joining the research team, as is another student, Nathan McCuen - they will be studying South Carolina cetaceans and mosasaurs (respectively). Read the full article here:https://www.postandcourier.com/news/shrouded-in-mystery-ancient-marine-fossils-take-shape-in-a @cofcssm @cofcgeology @cofcbiology #naturalhistory #science #studentresearch #college #scientist #juniorscientist #researchstudent #undergraduateresearch #paleo #paleontology #geology #evolution #fossils #fossil #museum #naturalhistorymuseum
#Repost @americangeophysicalunion with @get_repost ・・・ To round out women’s History Month, AGU is celebrating the geoscience discoveries and advances made by women. Here’s the second of ten: Inge Lehman discovers Earth’s inner core is solid in 1936, which helps explain how the core generates Earth’s magnetic field. #agu100 #women #womenshistorymonth#womenempowerment #geoscience #science#womeninstem #earth #discovery
#Repost @usinterior with @get_repost ・・・ One of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a place of natural beauty and living legends. A dry climate, sheltering cliffs and the watchful eyes of local residents protect the distinctive architecture, artifacts and rock imagery. Completely within the Navajo Nation in #Arizona, the park’s signature vista is looking down at Spider Rock, an 825-foot-tall sandstone spire that got its name from the Navajo story of the Spider Woman. Rangers and #Navajo guides share these stories to connect visitors to this special place. Photo by Nina Mayer Ritchie @ninamayerritchie (www.sharetheexperience.org). #CanyondeChelly #travel #FindYourPark #usinterior