Summer Research Opportunities Prepare Geology Student for Graduate School

Posted on 6/22/2016 11:06:37 AM
Allison Berry in IUP Research Experience for Summer Scholars

If you want to be a scientist, exams and papers are only part of the education you’ll need to have. The other half of the equation is research work in the field, and that’s why Allie Berry is feeling quite at home this summer at IUP.

Major in Geology

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Berry, who will begin her senior year in the fall of 2016, is taking part in the Research Experience for Summer Scholars (RESS) program at IUP, where she is able to get in a lot of the field work that will prepare her for graduate school. She’s working in structural geology, learning about how and why the earth was formed, and what could happen to our planet in years to come.

This is the third year for the IUP RESS program, open to undergraduate and graduate students. Students must have a faculty mentor for their research and must include a letter of recommendation in their application in order to be accepted for the program.

The RESS is coordinated by Justin Fair, Department of Chemistry, and includes faculty mentors in several departments. IUP’s 10-week program is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, and offers students the chance to participate in a cutting-edge experience that links knowledge and skills learned in coursework to real-work scientific and societal problems.

“It’s hard to do research during the school year,” Berry explained. “You have tests to study for and things to read and labs to take. This program has allowed me to spend my summer here doing research and making progress.”

Studying Abroad in Taiwan

During her freshman year, Berry studied abroad in Taiwan with Jon Lewis, a professor in the Department of Geoscience. During their trip, Berry, Lewis and the other students collected some data about events currently happening on the earth’s outer shell.

“Taiwan is one of the few places on earth where plates are colliding as we speak,” Berry said.

Two years later, Berry is still using the data she gained in her trip overseas. In the RESS program, she is working in a lab, pouring over the data about plates and their movements, gaining information that could be used for all kinds of things, from predicting disasters such as earthquakes, to adapting to global warming.

Preparing for Graduate School

Berry, who plans to go on to graduate school for both her master’s and PhD after she graduates from IUP, said the RESS program has helped her get a more well-rounded education.

“It’s definitely given me something extra to put on my resume,” she said. “It’s only going to help make me more marketable for graduate schools.”

Berry said the RESS program is just another example of how her decision to come to IUP was the right one. She knew that if she went to a school that offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in geoscience, she would have had to wait until she was a graduate student to get much research work done.

“I wouldn’t have gotten this at any other place,” she said. “That’s why I’m very glad that I came here. The faculty are able to give all their attention to us as students. They give us what we need to be successful. I have a foot in the door for graduate school because of what I have learned here, and because of the research I have done.”