For an undergraduate in geology, attending the annual Geological Society of America Conference (GSA) can be huge. Nearly 6,000 students, professors and other geologists attend this gathering, arriving from all corners of the globe. And having the opportunity to present your research there renders the experience all the more impactful. That’s just what happened for a cadre of students and faculty from the College this fall.
The College’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences recently sent a contingent of five students and seven faculty members to this auspicious event, which took place in Seattle, Wash. The trip was funded in part by grants from the College’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Program.
According to department chair Tim Callahan, downtown Seattle was figuratively filled with geologists for four days. The vibrant atmosphere there offered unparalleled opportunities for the College’s students. They were able to network with scientists from other institutions, make important connections for potential graduate school and career opportunities and catch up with a number of Geology alumni in attendance.
Students and faculty from the department, and the Master of Science in Environmental Studies program, presented research on a number of topics, including volcanic processes, tracking pollution in the environment, dinosaur evolution and extinction, water resources education in India and mapping coastal processes and flood hazards.
Those students who presented their research in Seattle include Matt Hughes, Ashleigh Kirker, Michael Shahin, Jennifer Soto Perez and Ashley Turner. Faculty presenting their work were John Chadwick, Scott Harris, Norm Levine, Phil Manning and Vijay Vulava. In addition, Bobby Boessenecker from the College’s Mace Brown Museum of Natural History also presented his research.
Callahan explains that experiences such as this global conference can be uniquely formative for students.
“I attended my first professional conference more than 20 years ago at the GSA’s regional meeting in Rolla, Missouri. Though it was a small-scale conference with about 200 attendees, I remember the excitement of getting out of the classroom to apply and communicate what I had learned.
Callahan adds, “That’s partially why, in our department, we work hard to encourage our undergraduates to attend national and international meetings. Our majors present their posters and research, broadcasting their talents while acting as ambassadors for the College.”
The bar continues to be raised for students as they prepare for their careers, and conferences can open up a wide range of networking, career-developing opportunities and pathways for graduate programs, Callahan says.
“That’s one of the chief reasons why our department will host GSA’s Southeast section meeting here in Charleston March 2019,” he says. “We are very proud of our students and will continue to support their professional development in any way we can.”