Supporting Undergrads Both In and Out of the Classroom

The L. Austin Weeks (LAW) Undergraduate Grant program provides grants to geoscience scholars who are furthering their undergraduate geoscience education both inside and outside of the traditional classroom setting.

The undergraduate grant program, made possible thanks to a generous gift from the late L. Austin Weeks, funds hands-on exploration opportunities as well as helps students pay for tuition, fees, and field equipment. The grants also fund group activities like earth science field trips and conferences. In 2014, there were 69 paired grant recipients — each student receiving a $1,000 grant split it equally with his or her respective geoscience department, chapter or club.

One of the hopefuls who received a grant this year was Kat Salas, an undergrad student from the University of Texas El Paso. Shortly after receiving her funds, Kat sent a big thank you and an acknowledgement that she is using her grant to purchase new field gear, essential tools for any geologist, including a field pack and a rock hammer. “I will also being using these funds for graduate program applications focused in oceanography or geophysics,” she said. She expressed gratitude for not having to incur the costs associated with covering these items. “These funds are going to be applied to tools that will help me further my education and professional degree. Granting me this opportunity … has lifted a great weight off my shoulders,” she said.

A group of Kat’s classmates benefited from the other half of the grant. The AAPG Student Chapter of University of Texas El Paso used the funds to help pay for a student driven research expedition mapping and dredging the fascinating seamount trail between Guam and Figi. Students from the El Paso Student Chapter teamed up with fellow undergrads from Oregon and California for a six-week-long journey aboard Rurutu-Tuvalu expedition RR1310 on the Roger Revelle. The group hit the high seas with the goal of addressing the hypothesis stating that the Rurutu hotspot in French Polynesia formed a long-lived seamount trail that extends at least into the Tuvalu area and contains a pronounced bend synchronous with the Hawaii-Emperor bend. The goals of the project were accomplished by utilizing geochemical fingerprinting combined with absolute age dating. “The data we collected will assist in improving absolute plate motion models for the Pacific plate and knowledge of the geochemical evolution of plumes in the area,” one of the student researchers said. For more information on the scientific objectives of this exciting journey, visit the expedition blog here.