November 1, 2019 | By Jake Weber
The annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) attracts 5,000 scientists from around the globe, but Albion College's presence is not lost there. At this year's GSA meeting, held in September in Phoenix, Alex Horman, '20, became the fourth Albion student in 10 years to win Best Undergraduate Poster Presentation at the conference.
"I was still in the middle of my presentation session when I learned that I had won, so I was surprised and very honored," Horman said. "All the other research that was presented was very impressive, so I was proud that mine could stand among theirs and even win best prize."
Horman spent the past spring and summer working closely with Carrie Menold, chair and professor of geological sciences, assisting with the analysis of samples Menold gathered half a world away, in the Himalayas.
"I performed a petrological analysis of the rocks, finding what minerals were in them and how the rocks correlated to one another in succession across the traverse. This is what I presented at GSA," Horman explained.
"Alex did quantitative and textural analyses on a suite of rocks from the Tso Morari in India, that my colleague (Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis professor Catherine Macris) and I are using to study deep fluids in collisional plate boundaries," said Menold. "Alex did the super-important work of establishing the mineral types and amounts and assessing whether there were any changes throughout the suite collected. She and I developed some hypotheses for her to test: no chemical change, gradual chemical change, and abrupt chemical change. it worked out really well."
With research that stemmed from a National Science Foundation-sponsored project, Horman's GSA presentation was hard to beat. Nonetheless, Horman also credits Albion's geology program—and its focus on both scholarship and presentation—with preparing her to be among the best undergraduate researchers in the country.
"All majors have to present at a colloquium four times before they graduate, and these prepared me for the presentation I did at GSA.," Horman explained. In addition, months before the conference, Menold helped Horman set up a schedule to ensure that the presentation was completed on time.
"It's pretty cool that multiple students from Albion have won Best Undergraduate Poster in the past 10 years. It is awesome that out of the whole country of undergraduates our research has always been competitive with larger schools," Horman said. "Our professors have high standards for the students, and because we have won in the past we have that goal in our sights."
Horman's prize included a check for $100 and the opportunity to publish her work in The Compass, the journal of geological honorary society Sigma Gamma Epsilon.