Kaylee ThomasYear in School: Senior
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jim Murowchick and Dr. Tina Niemi, Geosciences, College of Arts and Science
Ask Kaylee a question.
Why is undergraduate research important to you?
Undergraduate research is important to me because it cultivates important skills in a research based environment that students might not have learned in the classroom. This helps students prepare for their careers and/or graduate school. As an undergraduate researcher I have learned how to write a variety of audience based proposals and abstracts, better communicate as a leader, problem solving in the lab, and published my research at a national conference.
How did you find your mentor?
I met Dr. Murowchick during my first SUROP project, with my then mentor Dr. Tina Niemi, when I traveled to Baja California, Mexico to gather samples from a dried up lake bed. As a Geology major, I have since taken several classes with Dr. Murowchick. The best way to find a mentor is to look at what the faculty in your department are researching. Meet with the professors whose work interests you most and find out if they have any opportunities for undergraduate research or if they can suggest another mentor for you.
How did you determine what your particular research project would be?
I took Archaeology of Ancient Disasters with Dr. Tina Niemi and Dr. Mark Raab. In one of their units they discussed the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis and the samples they had gathered to test it. Unfortunately, the samples they collected were above and below the Younger Dryas horizon so they needed to go back to Baja California, Mexico to extract samples of the correct age. The Younger Dryas was a rapid cooling event that started ~12,900 years ago and lasted for about 1,000 years. The Younger Dryas is associated with widespread wildfires, the extinction of megafaunal, demise of the Clovis human population, and change in the hydrology of glacial melt waters. It was likely caused by a cometary impact or airburst. My research investigates Laguna Seca Chapala, a dried up lake in Baja, which spans the Younger Dryas. I have performed sedimentological and mineralogical analyses and am now investigating the elemental composition. I am looking for extraterrestrial platinum group elements to determine if the lake recorded a cometary event.