Friday, May 30, 2014

It Pays to Beg

Last semester I had a wonderful professor, Dr. Gordon for Geochemistry II. I loved the class, and really learned tons from her. My lab partner, Rick and I begged and begged Dr. Gordon for some undergraduate research work. She was busy with her grad students, understandably as they were getting their defenses together and graduating from grad school. It was a hectic and at times, chaotic semester. Nothing really developed for Rick and I, but we were persistent and kept telling her about our interest in getting lab experience.

At the very end of the semester, it happened! We were taken under the wing of our Dr. Gordon, who gave us an interesting research project on metamorphic rocks from the Himalayas. The project was originally a masters' project, however other possibilities came up for the rock samples. So, we started working in the heavy liquids lab at the Paul Laxalt Mineral Research building. It is a project that will take us in mid-June to UC-Santa Barbara where we will be working at the Laser-Ablation Split-Stream Petrochronology lab for three days. I am so excited to have this opportunity, and to learn how to work in the lab.

Frantzing at 0.3/20-degrees

My experience so far is using the Frantz magnetic separator that we are using to separate out some of the magnetic grains in the rock samples. We then follow-up using methylene iodide (CH2I2) and perform a heavy liquid separation in hopes of sinking monazite out of the samples. It is time-consuming process, but the real excitement comes when you look into a different world via the microscope. Seeing these beautiful crystals tinier than a pin-head is amazing.

MeI in separatory funnel with sample

I could never thank Dr. Gordon enough for her courage to take Rick and I on as undergraduate researchers, and her enthusiastic approach to teaching us all that she has. I am grateful for being accepted at a Tier 1 research university, where students like myself have these awesome experiences. 

Moral of the story: it pays to be a pesty undergrad.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Where is the End?

Today at 12:30 PM I attended my last Final of the Spring 2014 semester. On my walk towards Fransen Hall, I walked down the tree-lined path next to the Quad. The Quad at UNR is the place where graduation for the College of Science - Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering happens. The site of the white plastic chairs all in  rows lined perfectly, with care reminded me why I was there. Why I sold my house in Modesto. Why I left my Mom and Dad, sister, brother, kids, and grandchildren behind to move to another state. It reminded me of all the hours spent  leaning over textbooks, reading chapter after unforgiving chapter. Why I came to a university where I knew no one.

Photo credit:

I lingered during my walk to Fransen Hall, reflecting on the long path I have been walking. Wondering what it was going to feel like to walk up and receive my B.S. in Geology. What lies afterwards for me. Teaching? Working at a mine? Whatever door opens for me, I will walk through it proudly, knowing that I worked and sacrificed for something that is so important to me. Something no one can ever take away from me. Knowing that my Mom and Dad, now in their eighties will be proud of their daughter, who at the ripe old age of 54 earned her B.S. First in my family to go to college. Daughter of a man with a tenth grade education.

This semester has one filled with hard-earned success. I had to take English 102 Composition as one of the core classes needed, since Nevada does not accept California's community colleges courses that are equivalent. Do not know why, just is. I absolutely hated English in high school. I really did not care for my English teachers, they seemed boring and stuffy. I was, however, amazed on how much I enjoyed English 102 with Professor Frank Merksamer. He is a quiet spoken, caring man who taught me "the conversation." Burkean Parlor style. I enjoyed all the homework he gave, writing reflections of the stories we read. I learned to consider a compassionate viewpoint towards animals. I learned what speciesism, biopolitics, and consumerism. I learned more than I thought I ever would in this class. I appreciate Professor Merksamer because he gave me an appreciation for English. His class was one of my favorites.

I also completed GEOL 260 Intro to Field Mapping. This class was very different than Frank's. Our instructor became ill during the semester, and the class was a little rocky (no pun intended). I had to purchase about $100 of books to understand the class. I felt that most of the class was self-learned, and not that this is bad, but wished a little more from it then what I received. I did receive an A, however I worked very hard for it. It did not come easy because the class was not a lecturing class whatsoever. GEOL 212 - Earth Materials and Geochemistry II was my favorite though. I loved learning about the geochemistry of igneous (new rocks made from magma), sedimentary rocks (cool stuff you see on Colorado Plateau), and metamorphic rocks. Up until this class, metamorphic rocks were probably my second favorite type of rock, first being igneous rocks. Dr. Stacia Gordon teamed up with Dr. John McCormack to deliver a wonderful (but not easy) semester.

I have the next FOUR days off. Meaning I have nothing on my plate but my personal life. I am going to California to attend my dear friends' annual wine party, see my Dad (still recouping from pneumonia), and of course my best girls....Mom, daughter-Megan, grandaughters-Eowyn and Lucy. Because Mother's Day was the weekend BEFORE Finals, I had to stay in NV so we will be celebrating Mother's Day this weekend.

On Monday the 19th I start my Summer Sessions. I am tackling Calculus 182, Chemistry 122 and Ancient/Medieval Cultures. I feel that there is no end to school and wonder if my classmates feel the same way. Last week, several of the Geology majors met at Mike and Scott's house for a barbecue for "Dead Day". UNR has what is called  "Dead Day" which is no classes, and basically you just don't do any thing related to school...and I didn't. I enjoyed the camaraderie with my classmates, relaxing, laughing and eating. I think we ALL needed that day more than ever. I am grateful that this semester, we all got closer as majors, and lean on each other when it gets a little rough.

I know the end is somewhere even if I cannot see it now. Seeing all those white lawn chairs gave me hope. And I know that soon, my family and friends will be sitting in those white chairs when I get my degree. I cannot wait.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Western Undegraduate Exchange

The joy of going to school and living on the Eastern Side of the Sierra Nevada...
If you are attending a community college, like so many of my friends are, or did...AND plan to transfer to a four-year to complete your BA or BS might want to consider applying for the WUE (Western Undergraduate Exchange program) which allows students in neighboring states with good grades, the chance to attend for little more than a in-state resident student.

Technically, the WUE Program is one that you are responsible for applying to if you are looking to go from say, California Community College to an Oregon University or Nevada University. Each 4-year has their requirements, but it is easy to apply as long as you have a good GPA (believe most are 3.0 or 3.2 +). What it will save you is thousands of dollars each semester.

Some other options for out-of-state transfers is that you pay the "out-of-state" fees for one year, and then you can apply for in-state resident after the first year. Unfortunately, I applied for WUE and received that, and they do NOT allow you to apply for residency after the first year. To stay WUE you have to keep up your GPA...which means you study like I do until 3-4AM every night...and have very little free time to enjoy. The dangling carrot at the end of the stick however is that your student loans are minimal - and you have a degree!

Would I like to be sitting out in the livingroom at night with my hubby, or for that matter go to bed at the same time...sure. But school IS priority, because it is only a few years of sacrifice for the ultimate goal.  If you are thinking about returning to school, and are curious about attending a university out of state...give a call to their admissions office...they normally are very helpful and willing to send you information.

I will be very honest here in closing. I do miss being with my family and friends, and spending time doing medieval reenactment with my group, but school is NOT forever, and it will be so worth all the sacrifices. Yes, there are some events and experiences that I missed out on, but I believe that my education and obtaining my degree will outweigh all the "fun" I missed out on.
Working with our Jacob Staff to record Verdi sed layers

University of Nevada Seds class out in field measuring stratigraphy.