Dr. Mark Evans is a Fine Fellow

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[Mark Evans and his wife, Cheri, on Mt. Evans (appropriately named) in Colorado]

In Spring 2017, Dr. Mark Evans was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. As described on the GSA website:

“Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the best of our profession by election at the spring GSA Council meeting. GSA members are nominated by existing GSA Fellows in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic, and library responsibilities.”

One of Dr. Evans nominators, Dr. Charlie Onasch of Bowling Green State University says of Dr. Evans “Mark Evans is a leading authority on the nature and evolution of paleofluids in foreland fold-thrust belts and the interrelationships between fluid flow, diagenesis, paleomagnetism, and both brittle and ductile deformation. He has also excelled in the training of young geologists through classroom experiences and involvement in geological research.” Dr. Evans currently has 38 journal publication, 22 of which are first-author, and 117 meeting abstracts, 35 of which are with undergraduate student first-authors.

Dr. Evans was similarly elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London in 2012. The Geological Society of London is the first geological society, established in 1811.

The Geological Sciences Department at CCSU congratulates Dr. Evans on this prestigious accomplishment!

The Next Best Thing to Being There

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[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!

CCSU now has the coolest sandbox (and it’s not just for playing in!)

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[Introducing the new Augmented Reality Sandbox]

CCSU is now the only university in Connecticut with an Augmented Reality Sandbox. Part computer, part sand pile, this 100% educational (and fun!) set-up demonstrates a variety of geological phenomenon in real-time, including floods, volcanic eruptions, and glacier melts. Read about this new addition to the Geological Sciences Department here, and expect to get your time in the sandbox at the next university open house event!

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

 

Giving back is a privilege

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[CCSU Astronomy Professor Kristine Larsen explaining to 5th graders how she became a scientist]

Giving back to the public is one of the greatest joys of my job. Whether it is showing the general public views through our telescopes or helping a high school student with a science fair project, giving a talk at a local library or talking about recent discoveries on a local radio station, sharing the wonders of the natural world with the people of Connecticut (and beyond) is something I am passionate about. Recently I was privileged to speak at Career Day at St. Paul’s school in Berlin. The two groups of fifth graders were enthralled by the meteorites I passed around, as well as the reproduction astrolabe, and could not contain their enthusiasm when they got to look at the overhead lights through diffraction grating glasses. It only took two hours of my time, and if I am really lucky, it might have made a lifetime of difference to one young girl or boy. Hopefully I might see some of these young people in my classroom in seven years.

My heartfelt thanks to the people of Connecticut for allowing me to serve them in this capacity. The universe belong to us all. If I can, in any way, help you to understand it just a little bit better, please call on me! You might find it hard to get me to STOP talking about it! – Kris Larsen, CCSU Class of 1985

Rocking Ireland for A Good Cause

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[Dr. Piatek at Meteor Crater in Arizona during the 2016 field project]

Dr. Jen Piatek, our planetary geology specialist, is part of a project (funded through NSF’s IUSE: GEOPATHS program) titled “Engaging Students in Inclusive Geoscience Field Experiences via Onsite-Remote Partnerships”. This week, she joins a team of researchers from multiple universities [including Steven J. Whitmeyer and Eric Pyle (James Madison University), Christopher L. Atchison (University of Cincinnati), and Helen Crompton (Old Dominion)] and students for a week of field geology in western Ireland. The project’s goal is to identify techniques and technologies that can provide access to remote field sites for geoscience students with mobility limitations. The first field season took place this past May in northern Arizona (see above picture) with the same students – a video describing the project and the first season is also “live” this week as part of the “STEM for All” Video showcase. The video can be found at http://stemforall2017.videohall.com/presentations/920 – please come by to leave comments, ask questions, and perhaps give the project a vote.

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!

Teachers Go To SCI Camp

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[Teachers discuss how to make science come alive for their students]

Nearly 80 teachers attended SCI Camp CT, which was held at CCSU on Saturday March 25, 2017, hosted by the Geological Sciences Department. SCI Camp CT, an unconference, is a grassroots effort to introduce the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to all Connecticut K-12 teachers. An unconference is a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas among all teachers. Unconference topics from this SCI Camp CT included how to embed science modeling as part of science instruction, incorporate three-dimensional learning, embed NGSS assessments, use crosscutting concepts as a way to teach science, understand the nexus of Common Core of State Standards (CCSS) and NGSS, and embed engaging science phenomenon as part of science instruction.

This SCI Camp CT was the second one hosted by the Department of Geological Science, the first being in held in December of 2016. Future SCI Camps are being planned for the summer of 2017 and beyond to provide a venue to science teachers to discuss NGSS adoption in Connecticut.