With the new addition of our Scholarship Success Spotlight blog series, we are delighted to share another story from one of our talented scholarship recipients.
This month our spotlight is on Annette Sunda, one of our 1st quarter 2018 scholarship recipients. She is a recent graduate from Northern Arizona University. Here's Annette's story:
My Journey to Geology and BEYOND
My journey to geology started one class at a time. In my mid-twenties, with a full-time office job, life seemed sweet, except there was a void in my education that needed filling. I began taking classes, part-time, at Coconino Community College. I enrolled in each science course available, and finally found my niche in geology by way of an oceanography research project where I correlated off-shore buoy data to seasonal beach face changes.
After 6 years of taking one class at a time while working full time as a file clerk, I had my first degree: An Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies and a new-found passion for learning. Since it’s difficult to train in the geology discipline from behind a file clerk’s desk, I quit my job and focused on school. The decision to leave my career, my friends, and my life behind came after a discussion with management in which I was told to choose between school and work. I woke up the next morning and knew that if I wanted a better life it was up to me to work for it: I left my career and became a full-time student.
The transition to becoming a full-time student was more challenging than I expected. Giving up a career and the stability that comes with it meant that I had to give up my comfortable life, but I found support in my classmates and friends who put a roof over my head and food in my belly. In 2017, I completed my Bachelor of Science, in Geology, at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and am now working on a Master of Science in Computer Science at Regis University.
Many amazing research opportunities came along my journey to becoming a geologist, all which had the common thread of measuring how and why sand moves. My undergraduate geology research included California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) Project ACCESSO summer internship, NASA NAU Space Grant, a Student Contract with USGS Astrogeology Science Center (Astro) which grew into a Pathways Internship. My work for CSUCI Project ACCESSO was focused on Sandy Beaches of southern California, we measured many parameters of the beach including grain size and beach face slope, and biological richness. Learning how to measure slopes of sandy surfaces and do a grain size analysis led me to my Space Grant where I worked on correlating the movement of sand dunes on the Navajo Nation with a grain size analysis of the dunes. My student contract work with Astro started with image processing for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Microscopic Imager (MI), I processed data from the MI to create images such as anaglyphs, color merges, and focal mergers but blossomed into building a database to contain metadata for the images and a website prototype to share that data. While working as a student contractor for the MER team I was asked to join another group of people doing research and joined their team to do a grain size analysis of sand collected at their Mars analog dune site.
What I did with your SUPPORT
The research I did for my Space Grant was accepted for a poster presentation at the 10th International Conference for Aeolian Research (ICARX) in Bordeaux, France. ICARX is an international conference dedicated to wind erosion and transport phenomena. The financial support I received from G.E.M. Environmental made it possible for me to attend the conference. They supported me with a $1,000 scholarship which went to pay for my transportation to and boarding during the conference. My poster was displayed for two days, and my abstract included in the abstract book. This was my first conference in a different country and my first trip to another continent; it was a life-changing experience. I was able to network with people doing similar research, those doing complementary research, and those studying things I had never imagined. For a week I lived and breathed wind-driven sediment transportation and had a field trip to the largest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat.
How it benefited my FUTURE CAREER in STEM
My time in Bordeaux was dedicated to the conference; most people go to Bordeaux to drink fine wine and admire the art, but I spent most of my days drinking fine wine and talking about wind driven sediment transport. The time I had between presentations, I asked questions and took notes. Evenings were spent riding a bike through the narrow streets while trying not to run over pedestrians or get ran over by trams. I returned home with a collection of knowledge about active research projects from around the world and made networking connections for potential collaborations.
The field of research in sediment transportation is small and somewhat disconnected, attending ICARX helped me bridge some of those gaps. After this conference, I attended a proposal writing workshop for sediment transportation, I was able to inform key decisions based on connections made at ICARX in Bordeaux. By the end of the workshop, I was co-point for a project, tasked with finding funding sources, finding data archives, and maintaining the momentum from that workshop.
What is my MOTIVATION
If I ever need to remember for a moment, why I do science, I remind myself of the dead-end paper shuffling career and the struggles I went through to get here. I recall the friends and family that supported me when I wanted to give up, and those that gave me a home when the alternative was sleeping in my car. I think of the people that shared their love of science with me and the incredible projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on. My old chemistry professor, Dr. Salami, comes to mind often; his words are burned in my memory “You will not fail! Do not give up! Failure only happens when you give up”. Dr Salami would be happy to see how far I’ve come since his introduction to chemistry course.
Working at Astro is a daily reminder that with determination you can achieve anything. My passion in science is sediment transport and through that I found data science, my Pathways Internship at Astro allows me to combine my passions and grow as a scientist.
Thank you, G.E.M. Environmental! Your gracious support has benefited my life in ways I never imagined.
Wow! What an awesome experience, Annette! G.E.M. Environmental is happy to help with your educational pursuits and we wish you all the best.
Are you a STEM major like Annette? Consider applying for one of our scholarships! Our next scholarship deadline is November 23, 2018. Visit our Scholarship page to learn more about eligibility and apply online.
We're excited to introduce our NEW blog series called Scholarship Success Spotlight! We will be regularly sharing stories from our talented scholarship recipients and how they are using their funds in the STEM fields.
Our first spotlight is on Britany Kulka, 3rd quarter 2018 scholarship recipient from Arizona State University. She is originally from Valley City, Ohio and moved to Tempe, Arizona after graduating high school in May 2015 to attend Arizona State University. Britany is currently a senior studying geological sciences with special interest in mineral physics, mineralogy, and material science. Here's Britany's story:
Why I Value STEM Education
My academics have always been a top priority. When I was young, I would beg my mother to let me attend school even when I was sick because I never wanted to miss out on what I could be learning. This mentality has stuck with me as I have gotten older. I applied to universities in 2015 to pursue a bachelor of science as a mathematics major due to my love of numbers and their ability to describe the world with computations. Within my first semester of college I soon discovered an interest I had never considered; geology. I remember when I decided to switch to a geology degree, I had a moment of serendipity. I soon began my journey into the geology degree and discovered how much more enthused I was with the ability to learn how to explain the world physically in more ways than just computationally.
My Current Work and Passion
In February 2018 when I was a junior, I began working in a mineral physics lab as a paid laboratory aide. My work started out with using a 1,100-ton press called a multi-anvil apparatus to synthesize the high pressures and temperatures of minerals that are within the earth’s mantle. I began using the COMPRES 14/8 assembly which consists of a 3 mm capsule that can reach up to 15 GPa and a COMPRES 10/5 assembly which consists of a 2mm capsule that can reach up to 20 GPa. To analyze the samples, I was taught how to do Raman Spectroscopy and I have created a manual on how to use the system for point analysis and a 2D scan on the sample. After I had become knowledgeable on how to use the multi-anvil I started synthesizing minerals in the COMPRES 8/3 assembly which consists of a 1 mm capsule, but the pressure was found to be inconsistent compared to the other assemblies, and this is when my project began.
My main research involves me adjusting calibrations for the COMPRES 8/3 assembly due to not being sufficiently accurate for the high-resolution phase boundary determinations in the multi-anvil press. I have conducted measurements on the bridgmanite-majorite-akimotoite triple point in MgSiO3 using the multi-anvil press with the experiments ranging from 20-22 GPa and 1600-2100 C. The triple point determined through these experiments will provide an important reference point in the pressure-temperature space for future high pressure experiments. Additionally, my work will allow mineral physicists to compare the pressure-temperature conditions measured in the multi-anvil to laser-heated diamond-anvil. Before I finish my undergrad, I plan to complete this project with a written thesis.
How I Plan To Spend My Scholarship
My scholarship is being used towards graduate school applications and the GRE. I plan on applying to at least five schools for different programs.
What This Scholarship Means to Me
I am a first generation college student. I was never pushed by my family to attend school after high school, it was all something that I wanted. My grandfather never went past the fifth-grade and here I am wanting to pursue a graduate degree soon.
Thank you for sharing your story, Britany! Your friends at G.E.M. Environmental wish you the best of luck in your educational pursuits.
Are you a STEM major? Consider applying for one of our scholarships! Our next scholarship deadline is November 23, 2018. Visit our Scholarship page to learn more about eligibility and apply online.