The Next Best Thing to Being There

Sandia

[A rainbow over the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico]

Dr. Jen Piatek’s research is literally out of this world! Although she is an expert on the geology of Mars, she can’t exactly take her astronomy students there for a field trip. Similarly, when teaching regular geology classes she wishes she could bring her students to see volcanoes, mountains, or lake deposits up close and personal, but the department budget is limited. However, using a camera and special GigaPan software, Dr. Piatek and her research students have created amazing high resolution panoramic views of these geological features  and bring them into the classroom for students to have an experience that is the next best thing to being there. Many of these geological features are reasonable facsimiles to features seen on Mars, so by learning about our own planet, students can increase their understanding of our neighboring planet.

Dr. Piatek’s latest GigaPan adventure was to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Students in her classes should expect to see these amazing panoramas in the near future. Dr. Piatek is always interested in involving students in her GigaPan adventures, so if you are interested in being one of her assistants, please contact her!

Department Alumna Reaches for the [Falling] Stars

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[Jessica Johnson hugging a block of tephra in the national monument, Tent Rocks. The deposits are from one of the volcanic eruptions from the Valles Caldera.]

I graduated from the Geological Sciences Department at CCSU last May and have recently completed the first year of my Master’s degree at the University of New Mexico. For my Master’s thesis I am working on a carbonaceous chondrite, a primitive type of stony meteorite, which contains material from when the solar system was still forming!

Why did I choose this as the area of Geology to study?

Meteoritics, the study of meteorites, combines two loves of mine that I am deeply passionate about: Geology and Astronomy, two loves that were nurtured and encouraged in the Geological Sciences Department at CCSU! The faculty are like family to me there; a tight knit group of wonderful educators who want nothing more than for their students to succeed, and they will go to extreme lengths to help!

As part of my graduate degree adventure I had to complete a comprehensive exam. I wrote a research proposal on the project I wanted to complete and then defended that proposal in front of my thesis committee (a group of 3 faculty and research scientists) who questioned me for 1.5 hours about my proposal and various topics related to my research. I passed my exam and can continue on in my program! In about a years’ time I will complete my Masters’ degree!!

As scary as all that might sound, I felt incredibly prepared for graduate school because of the many opportunities the CCSU Geological Sciences Department offered me! I was fortunate enough to be able to complete research projects introducing me early on to what research meant and how much fun it was! In the classroom almost all of the classes required completing a small project or research paper and subsequently presenting on that project. Presenting in general can be a daunting and nerve-racking, but it’s inherently important in practically every profession, especially in the scientific world. Because we got so much practice presenting scientific views it has become second nature to me and I have become very comfortable doing it. This skill proved incredibly useful when I needed to present my research proposal to my committee during my comprehensive exam.

There are so many wonderful things that I have learned but probably the most valuable thing I learned from my family at CCSU was to never be afraid of a challenge! Graduate school has pushed me mentally in ways very different from my undergrad degree, but it is a challenge I am up for! Every single faculty member in the Geological Sciences Department made their classes challenging but provided the encouragement and tools to embrace and overcome those challenges. I am proud to call myself an alumna of the Geological Sciences Department and so grateful to have been taught and mentored by the wonderful people in that department!

— Jessica Johnson, CCSU Class of 2016

 

GSCI Students Proudly Present at University Research Day

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[Morrissa Luddy presents her research on contaminated soil at the CCSU University Research and Creative Activity Day]

5 of the 48 undergraduate student posters presented at today’s event originated in the Geological Sciences Department. Along with Morrissa Luddy’s poster “The Uptake of Tract Elements in Lab-Contaminated Soils from Lebanon, CT,” the following research was presented:

Emily Gajda, “Trace Element Analysis and Environmental Impacts of the Roxbury Quarry, Roxbury Connecticut.”

Maxwell Meadows, “Sources and Spatial Distribution of Heavy Metals in Agricultural Soils of Lebanon, CT.”

Ian Murphy, “Morphologic Characteristics of the Best-Preserved Martian Craters: Thermophysical Mapping of Gasa and Istok.”

Nicholas Zygmont, “Fracture History of the Weir Mountains Syncline and Lehighton Anticline, Eastern Valley and Ridge Providence, Pennsylvania.”

Congrats to all our talented student researchers!

Future Elementary School Teachers Engineer for Success

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[Wind car designed and built by students in SCI 412]

The integration of Engineering into the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) presents elementary school teacher candidates with challenges and opportunities. In SCI 412, the Elementary Education Science Methods course that is taught by our department, students recently tried their hand at applying engineering practices to design and build a wind-powered model car. To amp up the stakes (and make learning fun), there was a friendly competition between the wind cars to see which one would travel farthest. Congratulations to all the competitors – we look forward to you joining the ranks of Connecticut’s teachers after graduation!

Picture Yourself at the 2018 NEGSA!

The CCSU Geological Sciences Department enthusiastically thanks the CCSU Student Government Association (SGA) for their continued support of our Geology and Planetary Sciences (GPS) Club. Their financial assistance makes it possible for our students to present their world-class research each year at the Northeast Regional Geological Society of America Conference. To all our student presenters this year, congratulations on a job well done! To the students who cheered them on, the faculty are ready to work with you on YOUR research projects. We look forward to seeing YOU present next year, at the 2018 NEGSA conference in Burlington, VT.

To the CCSU class of 2021, we welcome YOU to get involved in our department, as a major, a minor, or just an interested associate. Membership in the GPS club is open to all CCSU students. Come check us out!

CCSU Geology Students Close NEGSA in Style

[Emily Gajda (above left) is rightfully proud of her research poster;  Max Meadows (above right) adeptly explains his work to fellow geologists; a (semi-)group shot of the CCSU contingency (there was so much to learn at the NEGSA conference that it was impossible to get all 19 CCSU attendees in one shot!)]

CCSU’s final day at NEGSA brought with it two more excellent presentations from department students, both on important environmental issues in Connecticut. Emily Gajda shared her research on the environmental impact of the Roxbury Quarry, while Max Meadows presented his findings on heavy metals pollution in Lebanon, CT. Please take the time to read their linked abstracts – you will be as impressed as we are with the amazing work these undergraduate researchers have accomplished! Rock on!

Meanwhile, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas…. (Updated!)

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[CCSU Geological Sciences alumnae Jessica Johnson (left) and Ali Steullet (center) with faculty member Dr. Jen Piatek]

While much of the department is presenting at the NE Regional Geological Society of America conference, faculty member Dr. Jen Piatek is presenting her work at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference. Here she ran into two of our illustrious alumnae, recent graduate Jessica Johnson (now studying meteorites at the University of New Mexico) and Ali Steullet (now a practicing geologist!). We’re so proud of you, Jess and Ali! Rock on!

keenan

Update! There has been a sighting of alum Keenan Golder (pictured above), who is now working on his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee.

CCSU Students Keep Rockin’ at Northeast GSA Conference

[Ian Murphy (left) and Melissa Luna and Jackie Giblin (right) presenting their research at NEGSA in Pittsburgh]

Day Two of the Northeast Regional Geological Society of America Conference finds more CCSU students (and alumni) presenting their work. Ian Murphy is highlighting his work on Martian craters, done under the mentorship of Dr. Jen Piatek. You can read his abstract here. Jackie Giblin is presenting work on the geology of Connecticut done with now CCSU alumna Melissa Luna (currently a masters student at Wesleyan) and Dr. Michael Wizevich. Their work can be found here. Congrats to all the student researchers who, once again, prove that CCSU Geology Rocks!

CCSU Once Again Rocks the Northeast Geological Society of America Conference!

[Corbin MacDonald and Nick Zygmont present their research this morning in Pittsburgh]

March brings with it not only Spring Break, but the Northeast regional conference of the Geological Society of America. Once again, CCSU is a dominant player, with 16 students and 3 faculty members in attendance. On the first morning of presentations, Corbin MacDonald and Nick Zygmont present research done on the geology of Pennsylvania (under the mentorship of department chairman Dr. Mark Evans). Read about Corbin’s research here and Nick’s research here. Dr. Evans is also presenting in this same session. His research is described here.

 

 

Future Geologists Meet Geology Students

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[A future geologist looks inside a rock at the Meriden Gem and Mineral show]

On Saturday March 4th and Sunday March 5th 2016 we attended the Meriden Gem and Mineral Show at Maloney High School. We had a great turn out of people showing up to our table asking questions, looking through the microscopes, and talking to us about geology and Central’s geological sciences department, as well as what we as students do within the department. It was so much fun watching the kids look through the Petrographic microscope at the sample of Olivine and turn wide-eyed when we spun the microscope’s table to see the minerals change colors. There were even members of the Lapidary and Mineral Society that came over and discussed with us the minerals we were showing them through the microscopes. People were genuinely curious about what we had to say about our department, CCSU, and the information we had to say about our display. On Saturday we were approached by one of the vendors, Richard King from Trumbull, CT, who offered to donate a set of fossils to the Geological Sciences department. We were given trilobite fossils, plant impressions, a fish fossil, and a few minerals. Attending events such as this where we are sharing our knowledge with the public is always amazing and as a department and as a club I hope we can attend more.

— Sara Poppa, President, Geology and Planetary Sciences Club