Meet the Rock Stars: Sara Poppa


Sara Poppa (right, seen volunteering at a rock and mineral show) is a Senior majoring in Earth Science with a Concentration in Geology and Minor in Astronomy.

Current Research Project: Reclassifying BY Draconis Variable Stars

Research Advisor: Dr. Kristine Larsen

Favorite Class and Why: Stellar and Galactic Astronomy because it was the first astronomy class I took in college. It interested me because stars fascinate me and the idea of other galaxies being out there was mind blowing to me. The way Dr. Larsen taught the class kept my attention and the topics she spoke about were always interesting.

Other CCSU Activities: President the of the Geology and Planetary Sciences Club, Resident Assistant, and members of the Esports Club and the Table Top Games Club

Most amazing thing you’ve learned at CCSU: The most important thing I learned here at CCSU is to get involved. When you get involved opportunities open up for you almost everywhere, you meet new people, helps build character, and you learn more about yourself along the way. If I did not get involved I would not have the amazing friends and fulfilling job, that I have today I would have stayed the quiet girl that only came out of her room for food and class.


Meet the Rock Stars: Joe Croze

Editorial note: This is the first in a series of posts that highlight our amazing students! See Yourself at CCSU in the Geological Sciences Department.


Joe Croze (seen here doing field work) is a Senior majoring in Earth Sciences with a concentration in Geology and a minor in Astrobiology.

Current research project: Geochemical Assessment of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) and other Trace Elements within the lower segment of the Housatonic River, Connecticut.

Research advisor: Dr. Oluyinka Oyewumi

Favorite class in the department (and why): Environmental Geochemistry. It was challenging, but extremely rewarding. The class deals with real world problems that a geoscientist can expect to encounter outside of school.

Other CCSU activities: The Geology and Planetary Sciences Club (GPS); Sigma Gamma Epsilon Earth Sciences Honors Society

Most amazing thing you’ve learned at CCSU: The life cycle and death of stars.

Preparing Students for Success After Graduation

In a recent article in eCampus News, Laura Ascione lays out ten vital skills that college graduates will need to be successful in the next decade. We are proud to say that all ten of these skills are central to the major and minor programs in the Geological Sciences Department at CCSU:

“1. Sense making: The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.” Both geology and astronomy excel in this area. Whether you are analyzing a variable star’s light curve, examining a rock under a polarizing microscope, or doing a chemical analysis on a soil sample, your ultimate goal is to put together the complete story of that star or geological formation – you are always searching for the deeper meaning.

“2. Social intelligence: The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.” Both the geology and astronomy curriculums are lab-based, and offer myriad opportunities to work as members of a team with fellow students and faculty. This occurs beyond the classroom as well, in research projects, public outreach, and at professional conferences.

“3. Novel and adaptive thinking: Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.” All of our students complete at least one meaningful, novel research project before graduation (some have several, with different faculty mentors!).

“4. Cross cultural competency: The ability to operate in different cultural settings.” We are particularly proud of our students’ dedication to public outreach. Students bring science from the campus to the community, sharing their knowledge with school children, families, retirees, and more. Check out examples of this in previous articles on this blog or our sister blog, ccsuniverse.

“5. Computational thinking: The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data based reasoning.” Not only do students utilize our new computer lab in many of their courses as well as their research, but we have created a new course on Computer Applications to the Geological Sciences!

“6. New media literacy: The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.” Students are encouraged to take part in our Department’s social media efforts (like our blogs, Facebook, and Twitter) and to creatively utilize media in their class presentations. Increasingly professional conferences are also utilizing new media in formal presentations, such as “video posters.” We are proud to say that Professor Jen Piatek is a leader in this area!

“7. Transdisciplinary: Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.” Our students study the natural world through the lenses of geology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science, as well as history, economics, politics, and even popular culture! Our students write effectively and communicate clearly. They are ready for any situation.

“8. Design mindset: The ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.” Lab experiences, field work, and research projects all prepare our students to master this important skill.

“9. Cognitive load management: The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functions.” Making sense of large data sets, distant objects, or the deep past is essential in understanding geology and astronomy. Our students learn how to organize and connect the nitty gritty details while never losing sight of the big picture.

“10. Virtual collaboration: The ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.” Our students collaborate across multiple virtual platforms, from our Blackboard course management system to attending Skype lectures. Some collaborate on research projects with experts across the country, or on other continents.

If you want to become a part of our GSCI team and be prepared for a successful future, check out our numerous major specializations and minor programs and find the one that is a perfect fit for you!


CCSU Geological Sciences Rocks the Bristol Gem and Mineral Show


[Faculty members Dr. Yinka Oyewumi and Dr. Mark Evans share the inside of a rock with a budding geologist]

Faculty and students of the Geological Sciences Department recently shared their expertise and passion for all things geological with the general public at the Bristol Gem and Mineral show. Children of all ages enjoyed using the polarizing microscope to examine rock slices and free samples of Connecticut rocks were given away to encourage children to start their own rock collections. If you missed it, see us at our booth at the Meriden Mineral show, March 3-4, 2018.


Earth Science Day Brings Science Down to Earth


[Some of the activities from CCSU Earth Science Day: Make a fossil, the virtual reality sandbox, polarizing microscope]

Members of the CCSU Geology and Planetary Science Club brought Earth Science down to earth for the members of the CCSU community and their families who attended our Earth Science Day celebration during CCSU’s Homecoming and Family Day. Hands-on activities and planetarium shows allowed our visitors to get up close and personal with rocks, walk a timeline of earth’s history, tour a scale model of the solar system, and control rivers and volcanoes with just a swipe of a hand with our virtual reality 3-D sandbox. This annual event is run by the students and offered to the public free of charge. Congratulations to GPS President Sara Poppa and all the other students for a job well done!


CCSU Celebrates Earth Science Day

On Saturday, October 7 the CCSU Geology and Planetary Science Club is hosting fun family events in celebration of Earth Science Day. Join us on the main floor of Copernicus Hall from 11 AM – 2:30 PM for a series of hands-on science activities. Make your own model of Saturn, look inside a rock, or hold a meteorite. Planetarium shows are at 11 AM and 2:30 PM. All events are free and open to the public!


CCSU GSCI Rocks the Durham Fair Again


Ben Bogue demonstrates the petrographic microscope to a young visitor

For the second year in a row, the Geological Sciences Department sponsored two tables at the regional Durham Fair from September 21 to 24, 2017. We estimate that over 3500 people stopped by our tables in the total of 39 hours that we were there.

Our set-up was similar to last year: We had two hands-on displays. The first was ‘What’s inside a Rock.’ For this one we had a binocular microscope where people could look at a rock under low magnification. We also had a petrographic microscope with a camera and an external computer monitor displaying a thin section of the same rock. As people looked through the microscope they saw a rainbow of colors in the thin section due to the effect of polarized light. Nearly every little kid (and most adults) went WOW! THAT’S NEAT! We told them that this is how geologists ‘look inside a rock’ to learn what minerals are present. Everyone was fascinated.

We also had a display of rocks from throughout Connecticut and especially from around Durham for ‘This is Durham 200 Million Years Ago.’ The kids were able to touch a fish fossil from Durham and we gave out samples of muscovite mica, pegmatite, and packets of the three different rock types. We gave away about 1000 bags of rocks and minerals.

For Dr. Evans, it was a pleasure talking with the hundreds of people who stopped by and asked questions about the display. Like last year, Dr. Evans also gave two talks at the Fair: The ‘Geology of Connecticut’ and ‘Climate Change in Connecticut in the Past 20,000 Years.’ Both were well attended with nearly 50 people in attendance for each.

We had seventeen (17!!) Geological Sciences majors volunteer their time to help out. We especially want to thank: Henry Abbott, Ben Bogue, Angie Colella, Emma Colucci, Joe Croze, Kelsey Duffy, Robb Evans, Brenden Hughes, Neal Hulstein, Isabelle Kisluk, Sarah Krzeminska, Chrisette Landell, Corbin MacDonald, Ian Murphy, Sara Poppa, Abbie Underwood, and Nick Zygmont. In addition, we had help from former student Melissa Luna (now working on her Master’s at Wesleyan) and Sarah Krzeminska’s friend Ken Lalli. We could not have had such a successful event without them.

We were invited back for next year’s fair, so if you did not see us there, we’ll be back in 2018. In the meantime, stop by and see us at the Bristol Gem and Mineral Show ( in October!

— Mark Evans



CCSU Rocks the Durham Fair Next Weekend

Once again, students and faculty from the Geological Sciences Department will be rocking the Durham Fair on September 21-24. Visit our table in the Llama Building on Thursday from 3-10 PM, Friday 9 AM – 10 PM, Saturday 9 AM – 11 PM, and Sunday 9 AM – 3 PM. View minerals through a polarizing microscope and a display of Connecticut rocks and minerals. Children will receive a goody bag with rock samples (supplies limited).


Troy Schinkel: Tour Guide to the Environment


One of our talented adjunct faculty, Troy Schinkel, is also part of the Master Naturalist Program at Goodwin Forest. He not only shares his broad knowledge of the natural environment in his classes at CCSU, but through public talks. Here are some of his outreach events coming up in the near future.

Talks at Goodwin State Forest in Hampton, CT

  1. September 8th, 10 – 11:00 AM. Goodwin Topography

Topography is the shape of the land. During this talk we’ll take a look at topographic maps of the area and learn how to read them. We will also take a short walk to compare what we see on the map to what we see in nature.

2. September 8th, 11:00 – 12:00 AM. Phragmites – Invasive Species

Phragmites has been invading the state of Connecticut. Learn about this invasive species and what the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has done to decrease the growth of the plant.

3. September 8th and 29th, 10 – 10:30 AM. Today’s Weather at Goodwin

This talk will focus on the weather that is occurring today. Topics may include: temperature, dew point, humidity, pressure, cloud type, wind, etc. We will then discuss the relationship between the weather variables. We will also use the weather variables to try and predict future weather.

4. September 29th, 10:30 – 11:30 AM. Mosquitoes

Nobody likes them! The buzz around us and then leave these itchy bumps! Well, let’s learn a thing or two about these insects. During this talk we’ll learn about some of the different types of mosquitoes, where they breed, and some of diseases they carry.

Troy is also giving public talks at Indian Rock Nature Preserve – Bristol, CT

September 30th & October 22nd, 11:00 AM. Climate Change: 2 Part Series

Earth: The only livable planet that we know of is heating up. Learn about the process behind the heating and what’s causing it. We’ll focus on the deadly trio within our oceans: warming, acidification, and anoxia, and how this trio impacts our oceans. We’ll also take a look at the differences between natural and human induced heating.

Please contact the hosting facilities directly for more information. Read more about Troy here, and please join us in thanking Troy for his service to the general public. Troy Rocks!



Eclipse viewing is a family affair at CCSU

[Chemistry Professor Barry Westcott and family are among the CCSU community members observing the Great American Eclipse on campus]

Although the Great American Eclipse was not total at CCSU, an impromptu observing session in front of Copernicus Hall allowed members of the CCSU family to safely observe the 67% partial eclipse. Clouds occasionally obscured the view, but using a variety of telescope projection systems Geological Sciences Department staff and volunteers (under the direction of Mr. Craig Robinson of our Copernican Planetarium and faculty member Dr. Jen Piatek) helped the students, staff, and faculty (as well as some from the general public) take a break from the preparation of our Fall semester and catch a glimpse of this celestial wonder.

Elsewhere on campus, Blue Devils watched the partial eclipse on their own, using solar eclipse glasses handed out by faculty member Dr. Kristine Larsen before she left for her total solar eclipse trip to Missouri. More on that adventure will be posted on our sister blog, CCSUniverse.

Although we did not have the resources to safely host an organized public event, we hope you enjoyed your eclipse adventure, wherever you observed it from, and regardless of how much you actually witnessed.