Recent news reports on the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland have reminded many of its potentially destructive nature, but for one geology major at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, it is a reminder that volcanoes are a fascinating object of nature worthy of respect.
UALR senior Kelly Ho, who recently studied in the San Francisco volcanic field in Arizona, spent eight weeks researching the timing, styles, and hazards of volcanism through the geology program at Northern Arizona University.
“Volcanoes are one of the most fascinating topics in geology, so any geology major knows what an honor it is to spend a summer with them,” she said.
The program is funded through a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant, which was part of the appeal for Ho.
“Since REU try to help students really understand what scientific research entails, I was able to make major decisions from the birth of my project to its final conclusions,” she said.
The program begins with a week’s study of volcanoes and volcanic processes. In the second week, students work closely with a faculty mentor to develop a project prospectus that outlines their work plan and a timeline for completing it.
The San Francisco volcanic field contains more than 600 volcanoes, most of which are scoria, or cinder cones. Scientists believe that many of these volcanoes erupted within the last 500,000 years. They bear record of the diversity of eruptive styles seen, but not often preserved in scoria cones.
The research internship was not all work. Ho was able to plan some side trips with participants in other REU programs on campus.
“Arizona is full of nice geology and people, and nothing beats sitting at the top of a volcano,” Ho said. “Although, standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon is definitely a close second!”
Dr. Jim Winter, director of the University Science Scholar program, helped Ho find significant summer research opportunities and apply for them.
“Kelly is an enthusiastic, high energy, hardworking, intelligent, and exuberant budding young scientist,” Winter said. “We are so pleased she enjoyed her experience, and we know she has many more exciting research opportunities in her future.”
Outside of UALR, Ho participates in the Central Arkansas Gem, Mineral, and Geology Society. She has also served as a teaching assistant for introductory geology labs.
Ho, who expects to graduate in May 2015, will soon begin the application process to graduate schools focused on sustainability and conservative water remediation.
She said the research summer internship was a great chance to get to know people from different parts of the world, share ideas, and learn from others academically and personally.
“I have been just as fortunate to meet people at UALR that have shared many interesting personal experiences as well as what is going on in the scientific community,” Ho said.
“If there’s anything that I’ve learned these past few years, it’s to ask questions about others – you never know what you’ll learn!”