The Geology Department has a long history of student and faculty research. Our faculty actively engage students as research collaborators and mentor students in their research activities. Research is an important way for students to learn how to apply their classroom learning and prepares them for jobs and graduate school.

Research Highlights

All students conduct independent research as part of their senior project.

Over $400,000 in grants to Geology faculty and students over past 6 years to fund student-faculty research.

Students and faculty regularly publish articles and present their research at national and regional professional meetings.

Many geology/environmental geology students work with faculty on independent research projects. Projects commonly involve fieldwork out of state (e.g. Alaska, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Saskatchewan). Although most students who work with faculty are seniors, about 25 percent of students have worked on independent projects with faculty prior to their senior year.

Senior Project

The Senior Project is the climax of the geology program. Every Alleghenian completes a Senior Project in her or his major field—a significant piece of original work, designed by the student under the guidance of a faculty advisor. These projects demonstrate to employers and graduate schools a student’s ability to complete a major assignment, to work independently, to analyze and synthesize information, and to write and speak persuasively. Senior Projects are proposed during the junior year in the Junior Seminar—a class that emphasizes critical analysis of professional literature and of geology in the field via a week-long field experience. Senior Projects are commonly supported by grant funds, conducted out-of-state, and/or presented at national and regional meetings.

Some recent examples of Senior Projects:

  • “A comparison of delineation techniques for the Meadville area water authority public-water supply wells”
  • “Morphology changes associated with breakwater placement, Beach 10, Presque Isle Peninsula, Erie, Pennsylvania”
  • “Evaluation of differential subsidence and uplift in the early foreland basin upon deposition of the middle-late Jurassic Ellis Group, western Montana”
  • “A practical application activity packet for middle and junior high school Earth Science classrooms: specifically designed to illustrate hands-on science”

Selected Student Achievements

  • “The effect of root systems on the shear strength of forested soils in clearcut areas,” one of several recent Senior Projects presented at regional Sigma Xi conferences. Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, is an international honor society for scientists.
  • Prestigious U.S. Geologic Survey Summer Intern award won by students for outstanding performance in a geology field course.

Joint Student/Faculty Research

Students and faculty regularly present papers at professional meetings, such as the Geological Society of America.

  • “New geologic mapping and geochemistry of early Tertiary volcanic rocks in the northern Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska” (presented at an annual meeting of the Geological Society of America)
  • “Paleoclimate and Faciees development across the mid-tertiary unconformity in the Madison intermontane basin, southwesstern Montana” (presented at an annual meeting of the Geological Society of America)
  • “Landfill siting as a forum for subsurface analysis and GIS applications in an environmental field geology curriculum” (presented at an annual meeting of the Geological Society of America)