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 $250,000 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 capstone 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”
  • “Assessment of a braided fluvial system in the Paleogene Renova Formation as a proxy for buried aquifers in intermontane basins of southwest Montana”
  • “Groundwater flow patterns and sources of water to a calcareous fen”
  • “Petrogenesis of a composite pluton in a collisional terrane suture zone, northern Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska”
  • “A practical application activity packet for middle and junior high school Earth Science classrooms: specifically designed to illustrate hands-on science”
  • “Sandstone petrography of Middle to Upper Devonian Appalachian foreland basin fill in the Catskill Front, southeastern New York”

Selected Student Achievements

  • Geological Society of America research grants to fund senior projects; most recently two students in 2014 for research in New York and Montana.
  • Geology alum Theresa Schwartz (’10) received prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award as an outcome of her senior project.
  • 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.  Some recent titles include:

  • “A map of recommended surface casing depths for oil and gas well construction in a region of the Marcellus and Utica Shales”
  • “Paleogeographic and tectonic implications of the Paleogene paleo-Missouri headwater system in southwest Montana”
  • “Uncovering the hidden landscape; mapping bedrock elevation for the glaciated region of northwestern Pennsylvania”
  • “Granitic and volcanic episodes in a collisional setting, Clark Creek igneous field, northern Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska”