It has been great Goddard I hope to see you again!
|UNI BETA Project||
Our time here at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is coming to a close. I have had the opportunity to see and learn about so many things! I was able to tour some of the buildings on campus and see the giant clean rooms, their giant cryogenic chambers, and even one of the mirrors from the new James Webb Space Telescope!
We managed to get accomplished everything that we had wanted to get accomplished we have processed ~500 samples. We put in a ton of work and will be working to analyze the data that we have received in the weeks to come.
We also had the chance to do some trouble shooting on the elemental analyzer so that we were able to run our many samples more efficiently. We also were given problems that the aerosol chambers here were experiencing and we were able to do some research into the problems and find possible solutions for them!
As a final hurrah to our adventure we went out for lunch with one of the NASA scientists that we had been collaborating with, Melissa Trainer. Her and I had a great conversation about what graduate school is like, how to find a program that fits what I am looking for in a career as well as what it is like to have a career at NASA. It was a great opportunity to get more perspective about what a career in science looks like. My conversation with her was incredibly helpful!
This trip has been amazing I have been able to have a ton of new research experiences, and I have gotten to talk to some amazing people. This trip was also rewarding in the fact that I feel more prepared for continuing my search for a graduate school program with all of the new information I have been given.
It has been great Goddard I hope to see you again!
Greetings from Maryland! I am writing this at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr Sebree, another of his research students and myself are in the middle of a 10 day research trip where we are having the amazing opportunity to collaborate with NASA scientists here on campus!
Unfortunately we hit a few snags in our journey to DC, we were basically following a low pressure system and all the rain and storms that accompany it from Iowa to DC. Bad weather in Chicago cancelled our initial flight out of Waterloo. When we finally made it to Chicago our flight from Chicago to Washington DC was cancelled after waiting on the tarmac for 2 hours.
We made it back into the airport at 10 pm to start the chaos of moving back all of our DC reservations and trying to make reservations to spend the night in Chicago. I had the opportunity to go through the process of rebooking our plane tickets. This was something that I had never done before so it was a massive learning moment for me! After roughly an hour of frantic phone calls we were able to have a place to stay in Chicago and a way out of Chicago the next day. We eventually made it to DC only 36 hours after our original planned arrival time.
Once we finally made it onto the Goddard grounds we were able to meet up with our NASA collaborators to talk about our research plan for the trip. Our big goal was to work on running carbon isotope analysis on the deep Iowa core samples collected by BETA's rock team. This involves packing 73 samples, in triplicate, for all of those samples and all of the necessary standards.
So I got to work packing samples and standards and as of now we are on track of completing our goals for sample preparation and analysis! We may have lost some time due to our flight delays but we are all working hard to make up for that lost time!
This past weekend we had the chance to go do some sight seeing in the Washington DC and Maryland area. On Saturday we went to see the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a great air and space museum which houses the Discovery space shuttle which was an incredible sight to see.
On Sunday we went to the national aquarium and we got to see so many cool exhibits like the 3 layers of shark tanks, the jellyfish exhibit, and we even got to pet a horseshoe crab and a jellyfish! It was a beautiful aquarium!
Now that it is Monday we are back to the grind and working hard to make sure that we stay on track so that we can go back to UNI with some data to analyze!
Another exciting and eventful year is in the books for the BETA team. It has been a busy year with many field trips to collect samples, attending and presenting at many conferences, beginning work on drafting a manuscript, and representing University of Northern Iowa at the Iowa state house our team has been busy! Now that the semester has calmed down and all of the final tests have been taken and final papers and projects submitted the members of the BETA team have written up what this year on the team has meant for them, as well as advice for other early career scientists that will come after them!
The biggest thing I took away from being on BETA this year, is that science takes time. I'm not the most patient person, so the biggest take away is that science takes a lot longer than I thought. Joining gave me many opportunities to start apply my knowledge, although my knowledge is very small, it was a place to start and I'm grateful for that. I had a good time at both of the conferences I attended, learning a lot about communication and other undergraduates work. It was very intimidating at the start, but going through two different poster sessions allowed me to work on my communication skills. I learned that sometimes you won't have the answer to someone's question and I have to admit to not knowing everything, which was hard at first, but it was a learning experience. I wish I had gotten a chance to see the other sides of the project more, and been more involved; however, the concussion held me back last semester (which was a whole new learning experience by itself). My advice for future students is to not be afraid to ask questions, get hands on, and explore the different areas the project offers. I met many new faces and felt more involved in the Chemistry/Biochemistry department. I'm very grateful for being able to get this experience of hands on learning with peers and faculty.
I don't know if I can put into words what BETA has been for me over the last year and a half. As I am preparing for graduation I have been reflecting on the events of the last few years. So many of the highlights circle back to things I have done with this project. Working in a clean lab, doing detailed descriptions of outcrops and samples, presenting a poster at a major conference, the list goes on. And behind each item on that list are fantastic memories that will last me a lifetime. This project presented me with some of the most challenging concepts I got to work with in college and I've loved every minute of it. Thanks to all the work I have been able to do with BETA I feel more confident in my abilities as a student than ever before. I'll just leave it at that, someone must be cutting onions in the other room.
From this experience, I was able to learn more and get more experience with poster sessions and presenting information to people that are not as knowledgeable in the area. The most fun (and my favorite part) of the experience was going to the GSA conference, as it gave me a chance to see what sorts of research other undergraduates are doing as well as learn some interesting things about microbes in the environment from the presentations I went to. The advice I have for future BETA students is to be comfortable working outside of your area of study. It gives you a unique opportunity to learn more about how your studies can relate to the work done by people in different areas of science. The overall impact that BETA has had on my future is that not only does it allow me to graduate, but it also gives me a unique look into other fields of science which can make me a more desirable candidate for a job.
When I first joined BETA I was really excited to work on and do stuff that I had really done before like cryogenics, which over the course of the year I learned a lot about along with what some research projects entail. My favorite part over the year was going to the rock quarries and helping at the outreach day at the quarry, where I got to interact with kids and teach them a little about science. Some advice that I would give to future BETA students is to have patience for not all experiment get accomplished in hours but sometimes weeks if not months. Another thing I would tell them is to when they get the chance to work with a certain type of equipment to take it for it’s not something that a lot of undergrads get the opportunity to do. At the end of it all I enjoyed being able to be apart of a research project that not only was interesting but also allowed me to set my own hours and fit it into my schedule. Thanks for the experience and allowing me to be apart of a really interesting project.
My semester as a member of the BETA Project has been great. I had the opportunity to take part in research techniques I have not done in the past. I enjoyed making a stratigraphic column and making rock thin sections. The best part was getting to present at North-Central GSA. It was great to be around so many other students presenting research, and the talks at the conference were really interesting. It was stressful preparing for the conference, but everything went well. I am grateful for the opportunity to help with the BETA Project and would recommend the experience to any student wishing to get involved in science.
I joined the BETA team last semester after I had received an informational email about the project that really caught my attention, since then I have learned a lot. Learning all about the project and how all three parts work towards a larger idea has been very intriguing and engaging for me as a student. I have gained a lot of new skill set that I can apply towards my future career, and the experiences that I gained were very educational and fun! My favorite part of the BETA team was that it gave me a much better idea of what applying my education would be like after graduation. Advice that I have for future BETA members would be to have fun with it and try to soak up as much as they can. This year was full of fun and interesting experiences to say the least.
This year, for me, has been about understanding the huge range of questions that science can answer and where my project fits in that larger picture. I had the opportunity to present research at a number of great conferences this year. I was able to learn how to present my research so that I was working my project into the greater picture painted by the fields of both chemistry and geology. This year the BETA project provided me with the opportunity to become a better communicator of scientific research, both in the professional sense of being able to speak clearly regarding my research at academic conferences to other members of the scientific community, as well as in the more general sense and how to make scientific research interesting and relevant to the general public through the BETA blog and community outreach events. My advice for future students is to take every opportunity that you can find to get hands on experience and to learn new things, you never know where those new skills can take you!
On Monday March 19th I had the amazing opportunity to present the early earth atmosphere portion of the BETA project at the National meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, Louisiana. 13 of us from the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry were able to go to the conference and it was an amazing experience!
I was able to go to some amazing talks looking at different aspects of different types of spectroscopy as well as going to some talks about preparing for and applying to graduate school. It was an incredibly valuable professional development experience because there was also a graduate school fair that many of us attended to get more information about what programs are even out there that I may have not considered had I not been able to talk to them.
During the two hour poster session I had a number of people come up and talk to me about my research and I had a great time talking to them. I also had a lot of fun talking to other undergraduates at the poster sessions I was able to talk to different undergraduate students about their projects and tell them about mine.
For me the best part of the conference was being able to experience the full scope of what chemistry is studying right now and that was incredible! There was such a wide range of talks and posters on a little bit of everything! There was also a vendor fair which was just crazy to look at because I am used to doing reactions in lab courses on the super small scale but here at the expo they were selling lab setups used for industry so there were things like giant round bottomed flasks that were spinning on massive stir plates with beads or glitter suspended in water in them!
Overall the conference was an amazing professional development experience for me as well as being a ton of fun and I hope to attend a conference like this again in the future!!
It’s hard to believe that the spring semester is almost half way over! This is my first year on the BETA team and I have been learning a lot about the undergraduate research opportunities at UNI. I am currently a Sophomore in the Biochemistry program. I have always been interested in Chemistry and how it works with Biology. The BETA Project is allowing me to learn how the process of Biology and Chemistry work together in a hands-on experience. My role on the team is assisting Dr. Sebree with the aerosol chambers. For the past semester, I have been observing how to start the chambers up in the morning. In the fall semester of 2017 every Thursday morning at 8 am, I would help assist and observe the process of doing undergraduate research.
I have been learning that science takes a lot more patience for results than I expected! However, after being patient I now have a greater understanding of what it means to conduct science. This semester I have started to start the chambers by myself and learning how the chambers work. It has been very exciting to finally understand how the process works and apply my classroom knowledge to a real experience. I’m excited for the new opportunities that have been presented to me and how it is opening up doors to the science world. I never thought that I would be helping in undergraduate research with NASA and get to attend conferences to present our research. What a wonderful opportunity and I am so grateful for being allowed to help out in such a wonderful project. I am excited for what the future holds, and other opportunities that will be presented with the BETA Project.
-- Mackenzie Male
On February 19th representatives of the BETA team traveled to Des Moines for the University of Northern Iowa's day at the capitol. Our group along with many others from the UNI filled the rotunda at the state capitol to show lawmakers and staff all of the great things UNI has to offer.
We brought a variety of fossils as well as our can of Campbel's primordial soup to help us strike up conversation and we got to talk to many important people including the board of regents representatives for Cedar Falls and Waterloo.
The day started off a little roughly when we heard the fire alarms go off as soon as we had set up our table! Once that situation was cleared up though the rest of the event moved smoothly.
MJ Lashbrook, one of the BETA team's newest members came along to help represent the team. Although the day wasn't what he had expected it to b,e he had this to say :
"It was a great experience. As with everything, there were some people who stopped by that were more interested than others, but anyone who talked to us allowed us to explain the beta project and asked questions. This event made me excited for future presentations and gave good practice explaining our research to a diverse audience."
Overall the day was a success we got to talk to a variety of people about the BETA project as well as getting to hone in our skills in explaining our research to the general public.
The Devonian geology research team’s semester is planned out in striking detail this semester. Our work will focus around one event, the annual Geological Society of America North-Central section meeting. The meeting will be held in Ames this year, so many members of the BETA team are going to present their work on April 16-17. The rock team members have some experience preparing poster presentations. If I’m honest, we felt a little rushed last time we went through this process. We know it’s a lot of work and have decided to be prepared for this conference well in advance.
Starting right away, we have begun describing samples we took from a local quarry last September. This involves consulting literature written about the rock sections we took samples from and then examining our samples with this knowledge in mind. We wet the samples to see more detail in them and describe their color, grain size, cracks, holes, minerals, etc.
After sample descriptions are done we will start building a graphical representation of the rock section we measured. This graphic is constructed using our detailed field notes, sample descriptions, and lots of time at a computer. Below is an example of the graphic we constructed for another local quarry last fall. Each section in the column represents a different type or feature in the rock. You can see the rock change as we worked our way up the section. Rocks near the marker 3 are 3 meters above where we started measuring. The total height of the rock section was 8 meters.
Graphical Representation of the Measured Rock Section Each section in the column represents a different type or feature in the rock. You can see the rock change as we worked our way up the section. Rocks near the marker 3 are 3 meters above where we started measuring. The total height of the rock section was 8 meters.
After this graphic is complete we will start creating thin sections of the samples from our quarry. These slices of rock are so thin you can shine a light through them! Kayla Beck wrote a great BETA blog post about making thin sections last fall.
The next step in our GSA preparation will be to photograph the samples. I took photos of our older samples for a poster presentation last fall. This involves finding a camera, zoom lens, black background, getting the light source right and keeping a short leash on my auto-focus. I took many photos of each sample. I picked out the best image of each sample and edited them in software called gimp. I’d never photographed rock samples before and was surprised at the amazing detail I could bring out of seemingly blank rocks with a little color curve manipulation! Below is an example of a sample photograph I took.
While all this is going on, our team members will be reviewing literature related to our project. We will learn as much as we can about the chemostratigraphy, biology, and depositional environments of Iowa during the Devonian period some 400 million years go.
Once all this is done, we’ll need to position everything correctly on our new poster and update any text we may need to. Making a poster and preparing a presentation at this level is a lot of work, but we know it’s possible.S The BETA Rock Team will see you at GSA in Ames this April!
-- William Spurr
Hard to believe that we are almost one month into the spring semester! The BETA team has hit the ground running this past month, we are applying to and preparing to bring our research to a number of conferences this semester. We plan to present our research at the Iowa Academy of Science and the North Central Geological Society of America meetings in April, as well as at the Iowa Capitol during UNI Day at the Capitol in February.
In order to prepare for our busy semester the team is making individual goals for the semester using the Backwards Planning technique. Each team member identified their ultimate goal to achieve by the end of the semester, and then worked on setting smaller deadlines that will allow them to meet these goals. This technique allows us to see what we need to be successful at a conference and to make goals and deadlines for ourselves to allow us to be as prepared as possible for conference so that we can make the most out of our experience.
It’s easy to think of geology in a big picture setting but have you ever imagined geology on a microscopic scale? The Beta Rock Team definitely does. Once a section of rock is described and collected in the field it’s brought back to the lab, there samples are cleaned and polished. Cleaning and polishing helps make certain characteristics easier to spot and revealing possible unique beds that were unseen before but to gain an even more in depth understanding of the composition you must take an even closer look, that's where thin sections come in.
Depending on your sample the first step to creating a thin section will be cutting it to preserve any identifying characteristics and to about the size of a Jenga block. Once your hand sample is prepared it’s time to smooth the side you will be exposing to the microscope slide. This is one of the most important steps because if a sample is not perfectly smooth once the epoxy is applied and dried it can raise one side of the rock off of the slide causing a failure once the excess is cut off. You can sand it by hand on progressively finer medium, ranging from 200 to 800 grit.
The slide as well is often ‘frosted’ with the same grit used to smooth the sample. The glass slide you will glue the rock to must be flat in order for the rock section to end up with a constant thickness. Next a two part epoxy is mixed and applied evenly to the sample before pressing the slide onto the epoxy. Significant pressure must be applied to ensure air bubbles are forced out and a strong bond is formed. Once dry a most of the sample will be cut off using the grinding wheel leaving a thin section of sample behind. Lastly the sample must be ground down until only a single grain occupies any space at any given time.
While this process may sound simple it is very time consuming and detail oriented. There are many things that can cause a slide to fail and unfortunately you often won’t know until hours into the process. However when successfully completed you can gain a quite an understanding of your sample. Whether you use a regular microscope to identify dominant grain size or micro fossils or a petrographic microscope to determine what minerals are present in a sample thin sections can help you take a closer look.
On Tuesday, November 28th, UNI hosted a meeting with ISGC to help further the UNI-NASA connection. I was fortunate enough to be asked to share my experience as an undergraduate student collaborating with ISGC.
In preparing for the presentation, I had a chance to think back on the past few years with the BETA Project. I started out working with BETA as the webmaster, creating, building, and designing all aspects of this website. From there I joined the research team as well and had the chance to work in the aerosol chamber lab, go into the field, collect rocks (get covered in mud in the process), and follow the process of taking the raw rocks to the point where we could drill into them (with diamonds) to collect powders for analysis. I also did my first research poster presentations at conferences! Going into my senior year I didn't know if I would have time to do anything besides maintain the website, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that if you are willing to help out, there is always something to do on the BETA Project. During spring break, I went with the team to Ohio State University and worked in a clean lab for a week, plus did some outreach at a local school to help get students interested in science research! It was incredible and these past few years have been incredible. This research project has provided me with so many opportunities that I am so excited to take to my future classrooms, and I feel very privileged to have been involved so much over the past three years.
Myself, Tomas, and Dr. Sebree at the UNI-NASA Connection Meeting
It has been a great time creating and maintaining this website over the past few years, I know Nicole Bishop will do an excellent job in the future, and so it is time for me to say farewell as I head off to student teach in the spring. I know I am excited to stay updated with the BETA Project in the future, and I hope you all keep doing the same! This project is so impactful in so many, diverse ways.
--Jessica Wayson, BETA's Webmaster 2015-2017
On this page we'll post updates of the BETA Project's progress- stay tuned!