Posts Tagged ‘research’

Simon at Metageologist is hosting AW #44 this month & the chosen theme is “Most important teacher.”   I have to say, this was an easy choice for me, though as I thought about it a bit more I realized that I really should also give a few “runner-up” acknowledgements.

For me, the title “important teacher” comes into play because that person has influenced not just my knowledge of a particular subject, but has also changed how I address research or teaching or just life in general (or all three).   So, I need to give a few shout-outs per category first:

  • most influential on how I live my life: this one goes to someone who was never actually a “teacher” but was instead my Girl Scout leader in high school.   I’m a nerd.   I’m a nerd who was in Girl Scouting all the way through high school eventually earning my Gold Award (equivalent of the Eagle Scout).   I had a variety of leaders over the years, most of whom were mothers of someone in the troop.   But Barb Burri was a single woman who was crazy enough to be the leader of the high school troop in the town I grew up in.   At the time, Barb worked in computers (she’s changed careers since then…), she liked camping, skiing, hiking, cooking, reading, had a wicked sense of humor, and would voluntarily spend Wednesday nights with a group of high schoolers.   I grew up in a family that spent plenty of time outdoors, but here was a woman that would encourage us to try and cook a 35-lb turkey at a town-wide encampment and who was willing to discuss a wide-range of topics I never really wanted to bring up with my parents.   Because of Barb, I’m now the crazy woman with a troop of middle school girls (none of which is mine…), who volunteers my time freely to a wide-range of organizations, and could make the hard decisions about balancing life vs. work without agonizing about it.
  • most influencial on my teaching style: this has to go to Jim Brophy at Indiana University, who opened my eyes to ways to teach other than just lecturing (sorry to all of my school & undergrad profs, who probably also tried this — I just didn’t get the message); my 1st semester as a grad student, I worked under Jim on an Earth Materials class for envi studies and education undergrads with a few archeology grad students thrown in for fun and sitting in the back of the class was eye-opening.   Jim used reading reflections that were due before class started, he had interactive questions for the students to discuss in small groups during lecture, and the analogies he used (M&M’s in a bucket for xtal fractionation) stick with me even 10+ years later.   I still teach plate tectonics & the model of the atom the way he did in that class, because he started with the evidence & moved to what current paradigms are while demonstrating the scientific process along the way.   I took several grad classes with Jim during my two years at IU, which were all great, but the most memorable was learning MELTS by starting with the original simple mixing model papers and reading the literature that forms the backbone for this powerhouse of ig pet.   Other people have influenced my teaching style, but none as much as Jim.   Oh, and Jim would also want you to know: a basalt is NOT a basalt is NOT a basalt.
  • most influential on my research: Jane Gilotti at UIowa.   (a few people may now start wondering if aliens have taken over my blog, but I’m serious on this one)   Jane has very, very high expectations and pushed me more than anyone else I’ve worked with.   When I took microstructural analysis with Jane my first semester at Iowa, she flat out told me that my work was going to be graded to a higher standard than the masters or undergrads in the class.   My thin section sketches back from that class are covered in red.   But I worked my butt off to get my presentation & paper for that class up to her standards.   I continued to work like crazy to get my talks up to par over the next few years and one of my most treasured compliments was a “well-done” from Jane after I ran the tectonics research group discussion a few years into my PhD.   My writing improved greatly under Jane (though it probably could still be better), which has made writing papers, proposals, and even just short statements for students that much easier.   Its Jane’s high standards that really pushed me and I’m grateful for it.

Ok, so now that I’ve rambled on a bit about the runner’s up, my real choice for “most important teacher” is: Kim Hannula.   (Kim, you could stop reading now…)   I lucked out and was assigned to Kim’s freshman seminar class my first year at Middlebury.   I was the stubborn student who thought she knew exactly what she was going to do & when, but Kim managed to steer me over the next few years, so that somehow I ended up at a metamorphic geologist and not as a planetary scientist (based on jobs available, best decision ever).

Teaching-wise, Kim would always write an outline of the topics that were going to be covered that day on the board, so we had an idea of where we were in the day’s lecture — my outline is a reoccurring slide in powerpoint, but same idea.   Some of my intro labs (and the majority of my structure labs) are either directly taken from Kim or modified to some extent from what I did as an undergrad.

From the research side, I worked with Kim in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on my undergraduate thesis.   The numbering scheme I use to collect rocks, what my field notebook looks like, how I tend to set up the organization of a paper vs. appendices are all things that I learned during that project from Kim.   And since that project had some pitfalls, it was also from Kim that I learned that what you want to do isn’t always what you’ll end up being able to do, but the alternative might actually be more interesting in the long run.   Good thing I had that knowledge before I tackled my masters rocks or I might still be trying to figure out what was going on in those darn amphibolites.   Once I started advising senior theses, I also tried to bring back into mind Kim’s interaction with me so that I could be that “good” advisor who actually was a help to my advisee.

On the personal side, I learned from Kim not to give up.   (I’ll let Kim explain in her own words.)

In addition to being a great teacher, Kim has also been a wonderful mentor, someone who kicks my butt about not getting things done in a timely fashion, and a person who I rely on for good advice about both teaching and research.   If I can be that kind of teacher for my students, I’ll be happy.


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I’m going to India on Saturday mainly just to go to India.   However, in order to justify the trip, I’m giving a talk on Tuesday, 13. March in Bangalore on x-ray tomography.   If anyone happens to be in the area, please come!   I’ll try to post a summary of the key points of the talk up either before I go or right after I get back.

My other goal for this trip to pick up a few pieces of Deccan flood basalt 🙂


Raman Research Institute


High-resolution X-ray Computed Tomography — a non-destructive method to
visualize the interior of solid objects

Elizabeth R. Goeke
Salem State University, USA

Abstract:  Application of High-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT) to
study the internal spatial relationships in a wide-range of geological
materials has grown in the past decade.   CT scans are non-destructive,
relatively quick to obtain, and a wide-array of measurement and
visualization methods have been developed  to analyze the data.   Comparison
between CT methods and traditional destructive  serial sectioning results in
analyses that closely correspond and are usually within error of each other.
The variation of X-ray attenuation within objects relates closely to density
and is used to differentiate between variations in the materials or phases
within the analyzed sample.  High-resolution CT analysis has a scale of
resolution of approximately ~100 microns, while ultra-high-resolution scans
may reach ~10 microns.   Commercial high-resolution CT scanners are
available and require only counter-top space for setup as well as several
computers to process the data.   In addition to being safe to use on rare
samples such as meteorites and fossils, CT analysis has also been applied to
crystal size distribution studies in metamorphic and igneous rocks,
microstructural analysis of shear zones, characterization of soil and
pore-space morphology, and distribution of economic mineral genesis and

on Tuesday,  13 March 2012, at 11:30 a.m.
Venue: Library Block lecture hall
All  are  welcome

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Live-blogging is not something I could have managed during GSA, since I’m usually taking notes for myself during the good talks (and trying to catch up with “brilliant thoughts” at other times), but I’m going to try summarizing the ridiculously good session that occurred on the final Wednesday of GSA at the beginning of the month in Denver.

I will note that I did attend other sessions at GSA, but most of the time there were only one or two “amazing” talks (e.g. Jane Selverstone’s talk on the microdiamonds found in the eastern Swiss Alps).   The session Wednesday had me writing & thinking the entire time–it was that good.

The session title was “Garnet and Its Use in Unraveling Metamorphic and Tectonic Processes” and was organized by Ethan Baxter, Mark Caddick, and Jay Ague.   Talks were held in the morning and the afternoon was dedicated to the poster session in a rapidly emptying hall (last day at GSA generally has attendance issues).   The wonderful thing about this session was that it look at a rather variety of ways that garnet could be used within metamorphic rocks and did a great job of bringing people together from different areas of our sub-disciple to talk & think about different ways to look our rocks.   And the organizers did a very good job of picking appropriate speakers and ordering the talks, so that there was a flow over the course of the morning.

As stated above, the last day of GSA is frequently a bit sparse attendance-wise.   (In 2001 in Boston I had a poster the final morning of GSA and various people appeared with suitcases in tow.)   And since the topic wasn’t exactly “sexy” (unless your a metamorphic petrologist!), I personally was thinking the room would be half to quarter empty by the time my own talk occurred at 11.30.   Yeah, that was erroneous logic.   Turns out the session was full for the entire morning.   There were people standing for every talk and new chairs had even appeared during one break.   Lots and lots of people were interested in garnet on that day 🙂

For me, the greatest benefit of the talks was all of the different moments when I thought to myself, “oh, I need to consider that” or “maybe we should do that with these rocks?”   Let me give you a short run-down of the high points (and yes, if you’re not a petrologist, this is probably the time to move on to something else):

  • Frank Spear (invited talk) opened the session by asking whether we have to only consider grain boundaries as our effective bulk composition (i.e. what’s actually reacting to form new minerals / grow ones already present), which would lead to some very complicated math… It would also mean that grain size has a direct impact on what kind of garnet zonation patterns are found within rocks.   Thought-provoking, but also a bit scary from the re-invention side.
  • Thomas Lapen (disclaimer: Lukas Baumgartner is also one of my co-authors as well as Lapen’s) discussed differences in what stage of growth of garnet Sm-Nd vs. Lu-Hf actually records
  • Ethan Baxter runs a TIMS lab and his talk gave a good update as to what they could or couldn’t manage to date at this point (garnet can’t be dated in situ like zircon or monazite, you have to actually extract it, which puts limitations on what the resolution of the ages are); for instance, they dated 12 different regions within a 6 cm garnet to get the growth history (episodic not continual)
  • Ashley Russell (student of John Valley’s) presented material on using oxygen isotopes within garnet to address the issue of fluid presence / absence during growth within a high pressure / high temperature (HP/HT) region in the Czech Republic
  • I was happy to see Greg Dumond’s talk simply because he had complicated pressure-temperature diagrams (which is where mine are headed towards)
  • Bill Carlson (also invited talk) returned the session to the theoretical (this is what Spear & Carlson do better than almost anyone else) and discussed why not only large cations, but also small cations, diffuse slower than moderate-sized ions.   He ended with a teaser that this may be true for divalent cations (e.g. Mg, Mn2+, Fe2+, Ca), but not for trivalent cations, which he’ll discuss at AGU
  • Sumit Chakraborty looked at diffusion rates of elements within garnet comparing the various calibrations that have been made–especially of calcium within garnet–and argued that you need to go with end-members (grossular vs. andratite vs. uvarite) instead of simply Ca vs. Mg vs. Fe.   This talk & several others resulted in several serious discussions with members of the audience, but the long & short of the matter is that we need to understand how fast things diffuse & what controls them in order to model the process in real rocks.   This theme would also come to the front in Baumgartner’s poster (volumetric differences between garnet end-members) and Caddick’s modeling of diffusion vs. growth and the resultant patterns in garnet (also a poster)
  • I’m not reviewing my own talk…

Of the posters, I spent most of my time talking with Mark Caddick and the implications of his model (he has a paper out in November’s issue of the Journal of Petrology if you can 1) get behind the paywall and 2) are interested).   Baumgartner’s poster had a rather large crowd in front of it the entire length of the poster session and it was a veritable “who’s who” of metamorphic petrology.

(I want to apologize if I misconstrued anyone’s research–I’m reading my hasty notes in trying to summarize this and may have missed some blatant point or re-interpreted something to suit my own research needs.   And if I didn’t cover your talk, it doesn’t mean it didn’t influence me–just means that I had to pick & choose for length.)

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