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

sandbox

[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!

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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.

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!