Learning Science As a Geology Summer Research Fellow

Newsletter of the College of Science & Mathematics

Learning Science As a Geology Summer Research Fellow

Geology major Christopher Eddy ’17 was one of 38 Norwich University undergraduates awarded Summer Research Fellowships to explore diverse topics across the arts, sciences and professional fields. Developed by the university’s Office of Academic Research, the competitive, six- and ten-week fellowships are funded by university endowments dedicated to supporting student academic investigation.

This summer rising junior Christopher Eddy (pictured center) spent 10 weeks in the field and lab investigating the boundary between two ancient mountain building events in central Vermont.

Known as the Richardson Memorial Contact, the region separates the 480 million-year-old Taconic mountain building event, or formation, from the younger 320-million-old to 330 million-year-old Acadian mountain building event.

Geologists have puzzled over this complex boundary for nearly a century, trying to understand its geologic backstory.

Seeking to add more data to the science debate, Eddy and his faculty advisor, Assistant Professor of Geology G. Christopher Koteas, performed detailed geologic mapping and lab-based microstructural studies of rocks along the boundary structure.

“My research project really stemmed from an urge to do science and really dive into the field,” Eddy says.

He applied to the NU Undergraduate Research Program to become a Summer Research Fellow. Administered by the Office of Academic Research, the program awarded 38 Norwich undergraduates stipends up to $4,000 to cover six- and ten-week research projects across the arts, sciences and professional fields this year.

Fellows are paired with faculty advisors and meet regularly over the course of the summer with fellow student researchers to share findings and the highs and lows of their research experience.

The program is entirely funded by university endowments from alumni dedicated to supporting academic student investigation.

Over the summer, Eddy and Koteas visited 86 field sites along transects of the boundary in central Vermont to gather map data and field samples. Rock samples in hand, they returned to the lab to analyze and interpret their data.

“Geology is pretty great in that everything that happens on a grand scale also happens down to the grain scale, and you’re going to see every mineral preserving those motions,” Eddy says.

Preliminary data revealed the presence of rocks under very high strain, indicating a shear zone, Eddy says.

The rising junior arrived at Norwich after spending six years in the Air Force, where he served as an inflight cryptologic Arabic linguist largely based at Offutt AFB near Omaha, Neb.

At Norwich, he’s been passionate about geology ever since his first intro class. Faculty describe him as a mature, driven and highly capable student

Eddy says the summer has been a nonstop learning experience. His biggest insight: “Sometimes you just don’t know. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t contributed something useful. Just that there is more work to do.”

He adds that working with Prof. Koteas has been an honor, describing him as a excellent scientist, mentor and friend.

Eddy says his project is in the final stages of initial research. Together with Prof. Koteas, he has submitted a poster to the Geological Society of America. If accepted, it would be presented at the Society’s national meeting in Baltimore in November.

This article was originally published on August 26, 2015 as part of a series on Norwich University Undergraduate Summer Research fellows.