Geology Rocks

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By: Isaiah Silva

A majority of faculty in the Geological Sciences Department at NMSU has been awarded National Science Foundation grants within the last year and a half, which adds up to more than $250,000.

Four out of the six faculty members in the department have secured grants from the NSF. According to the NSF website, the grants go to people whose “research proposals have been judged the most promising by a rigorous and objective merit-review system.”

“The typical success rate for NSF geology awards is about 15 percent so we’ve been quite successful in securing these grants. Every member of the geology faculty is actively involved in national or international research,” Nancy McMillan, Geology Department Head said.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that was created in the 1950s to “promote the progress of science to advance national health, prosperity, and welfare; as well as to secure the national defense.”

The NSF has an annual budget of $7.2 billion and help fund nearly 24 percent of research in American universities. They also support other fields such as mathematics and computer science.

The research that is taking place at NMSU is truly global. Researchers are studying origins of minerals that were found in Antarctica, to magma that erupted in Oregon, and back to the Organ Mountains and finding out how they were formed.

“We are lucky to have spectacular mountain ranges in southern New Mexico,” Jeff Amato, NMSU professor of structural geology, tectonics, and geochronology said, “These mountains formed through tectonic forces that resulted in earthquakes and uplift over millions of years.”

Amato will use the “presence of small amounts of radioactively derived helium in the mineral zircon” to determine when the rock rose up and find the age of the rocks that formed the mountain range.

“The mineral zircon is amazing because it can be used to determine the age of the rocks as well as the time when the rocks were uplifted to form the mountains.” Amato said.

These grants will help each of the researchers in their quest of knowledge about our planet. Not only will they help the researchers, it will also help future students who want to study geology.

Let these faculty members be examples that education and a thirst for knowledge can take a student wherever he or she may want to go.

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