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The Significance of Undergraduate Research Experience

Lenora Perkins, SA-8533

It is a unique and beneficial opportunity to be able to do research at an undergraduate level. Within the last year, I have had the honor of working with three amazing profes- sors, and participated in three different research projects. These opportunities allowed me to grow as a student. Each professor became a mentor to me and helped open my eyes to a different area of geology. In working with them, I was able to perform research that is considered both inter- and multidisciplinary in nature.

swinging a twelve pound sledge hammer onto an aluminum strike plate to generate the seismic source for our geophones to read. We repeated the process of planting geophones and taking readings until we had a length of 530 ft.

The opportunity for my second project arose as a result of taking Geomorphology as an Honors course. I spoke with my instructor and we came to an agreement that at the end of the semester, the deliverable for my selected topic was not only a research paper, but I was also required to present at our local undergraduate research symposium. The decided topic was “Calculating Rates of Dune Migration Laguna Madre, Southeast Texas.” For this I used various satellite data in order to analyze and observe changes in dimension and vol- ume of dunes on the South Texas Sand Sheet. A total of 91 dunes were measured and the migration rate was calculated. I successfully presented the results of my research project at the 10th Annual Javelina Research Symposium. Seeing an opportunity to present again, I was accepted to give an oral presentation at Rice University’s Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium. Due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey, the project slightly evolved to include a focus of storm impacts on dune migration. This version of my project went on to be presented three more times at different venues in the spring of 2018, one of which being the GSA South-Central section meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Texas A&M Univeristy - Kingsville sudent Lenora Perkins, Foss Scholarship winner in front. Starting on the back row, from left to right: Franky, Dr. Haibin Su, Dr. Michael Houf (representative from the Dean’s office), Dr. Lionel Hewitt (Head of the Physics and Geosciences Department), Dr. Tom McGehee, Dr. Mark Ford. Second row: Dr. Veronica Sanchez (one of my research advisers), Allison Mrotek, Margarita Wilhelm, Ivan Villarreal, Eddy, Olvein Ortiz, Cody Goll. Front row (behind me): Shae Diehl, Tatum Trevino, Tessa Casanova, Rikki Ponce, Audrey Lucio, Travis Burford, Matt Cowan (who presented me with the award).

In May 2017, I participated in a seismic research acqui- sition near Rio Grande City. One of the main goals of this project for students was to be in the field and take a true hands-on approach in learning how to do a seismic survey. Our study area consists of an anomalously thick deposit of Catahoula-age ash which has been interpreted as a single deposition event. In appearance it is a massive body that has indications of a low-energy depositional environment. We used seismic refraction imaging methods to determine whether the base of the volcanic ash was acoustically visible. Performing a seismic survey at the end of May in south Texas is truly a memorable experience. To avoid the harsh sun and heat, we worked from just before sunrise to mid-morning, retreated indoors during the heat of the day, and returned working in the late evening until nightfall. We assisted our professor in the measurement of the line for the seismic profile, and then with his supervision we planted 24 geophones every ten feet ourselves. The two most able bodied students then took turns

This was a defining project for me in that I grew as a student. I was able to prove to myself that I am capable to excelling in whatever I put my mind to.

My final, and currently ongoing research project is over “Seismic Studies on the Cascadia Margin Using Tomography.” This project involved learning how to use seismic UNIX, as well as to interpret images from seismic sections. In order for me to do this, I had a steep learning curve in coding and using the software. The resulting seismic images are quite amazing, especially when subsurface features can be seen. The study area is a subduction zone located on the western coast of the United States and Canada, and is perhaps one of the most seismically active regions in the world due to the unique tectonics of the area. This study uses seismic data previously collected along the margin to better understand natural hazards and natural resources. By using advanced imaging techniques, features such as faults, fluid seeps, and underwater mountains can be seen. All of which provide indica- tions about the subsurface dynamics of the Cascadia Margin.

Overall, I became the student I am today as a result of the experiences gathered from each of my projects, as well as the mentoring I received. Being able to do research at an undergraduate level is important because it allows us to get research experience prior to entering graduate school. This factor can give us a large advantage in that we have a good idea of what we want to focus on in terms of future research.

Jul.Aug.Sep 2018 • TPG 57

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