Eight Future Geologists Earn Awards at GeoSymposium

Group of people posing by a projection

Student winners display their awards presented to them by corporate sponsors at the GeoSymposium held on the UNLV campus Friday, April 27, 2019.

May. 13, 2019

Eight UNLV geology students were honored at the 13th annual GeoSymposium on April 27 and 28 for their outstanding research and presentations.

The UNLV Department of Geoscience hosted the student-run event, designed to provide graduate and undergraduate students with an opportunity to present their original research and receive feedback from industry, civic and government professionals, as well as academic experts.

From celebrating students who will intern at NASA Johnson Space Center, to those who touch pieces of Mars every day, and those that develop predictive models to determine summer droughts, the student research is valuable and has been recognized by leading professionals in the field.

Various corporate sponsors, including Barrick Gold, Kinross Gold Corporation, Newmont Mining, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, showed their commitment to the next generation of science graduates by sponsoring and attending the event.

Below is a complete list of winners:

1st place, Graduate Academic Achievement Award
Student: Chris DeFelice, doctorate student in Igneous Petrology

Advisor: Dr. Shichun Huan
Project: An isotopically depleted, lower mantle component is intrinsic to the Hawaiian mantle plume.
Research Relevance: “We’ve found an ancient reservoir previously unrecognized in the lower mantle that makes up the majority of the Hawaiian mantle plume.”

Undergraduate Academic Achievement Award
There was a tie in this category.

Student: Clarisa Del Toro Contreras, bachelor’s degree student in Geology
Advisor: Dr. Shichun Huan
Project: Loihi Seamount: The Rosetta Stone of Hawaiian Volcanoes
Research Relevance: “The relevance of the research is that it is the only Hawaiian volcano at its pre-shield stage, and therefore gives us insight into the growth of volcanoes at their youngest ages.”

Student: Arlaine Sanchez, bachelor’s degree student in Geoscience
Advisor: Dr. Elisabeth Hausrath
Project: Saponite Synthesis into Solution, and its Aqueous History for Mars
Research Relevance: “Planetary science, in general, is something that the general public is interested in, but doesn’t know too much about. Planetary research is essential in not just understanding our world, but the larger solar system.”

1st place Barrick Research Grant Award
Student: Inga Holmfeld, master's degree student in Dendroclimatology and Climate Science
Advisor: Dr. Bethany Coulthard
Project: How Trees Reveal Past Climate: Summer Streamflow Reconstruction for the Fraser River Basin, B.C., Canada
Research Relevance: “Developing multi-century reconstruction of summer drought to help water managers more accurately predict future risk. The important thing is that we can assess the severity of droughts from the reconstructions under climate change, and how bad the droughts could be in the future. This will help water managers to use the data for water supply models for the future.”

1st place Jacobs Research Grant Award
Student: Amanda Ostwald, doctorate student in Planetary Geology
Advisor: Dr. Arya Udry
Project: The Parental Magma Compositions of the Nakhlite Martian Meteorites as Determined by Melt Inclusion Analysis
Research Relevance: “By studying melt inclusions in the earliest phases of nakhlites, we will be able to constrain parental magma composition and evolution. We are really interested in how heterogeneous the Mars’ mantle and crust are because understanding it on Mars is helpful for understanding the early evolution of Earth.”

1st place Newmont Research Grant Award
Student: Suzanne Mulligan, doctorate student in Metamorphic Petrology

Advisor: Dr. Michael Wells
Project: Testing the applications and limitations of Raman-inclusion barometry
Research Relevance: “As a developing method in metamorphic petrology, Raman inclusion barometry gives us an independent test of what we think we know. It is essential to test whether this new technique works as an independent measure metamorphic pressure.”

Best Graduate Poster Award
Student: Natalie Renkes, master's degree student in Geology and Health

Advisor: Dr. Brenda Buck and Dr. Rodney Metcalf
Project: Morphology of Recrystallized Versus Neocrystallized Fibrous Amphibole: Implications for Potential Health Risk
Research Relevance: “If we find that recrystallized fibrous amphibole has comparable morphology to neocrystallized fibrous amphibole, we could potentially have hazardous conditions in other areas of the Western U.S.”

Best Undergraduate Poster Award
Student: Amber Turner, bachelor’s degree student in Geoscience

Advisor: Dr. Oliver Tschauner
Project: High Pressure Mineral Phases of Olivine Formed by Pre-Compression Followed by Laser-Driven Hypervelocity Impacts Versus Dynamic Shock Impact with a Single-Stage Shock Gun
Research Relevance: “It is interesting because you can understand the origins of our solar system, and how planets form, and understand the process of shock metamorphism, which is important for understanding the processes that occurred during their time of formation. They are useful because they encapsulate a particular interval in time and capture processes of planetary formation.”