EMS boasts five student entrants and keynote speaker at capitol event

Richard Alley, Nobel Prize Laureate and Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences knows how to inspire. And that’s just what he did as keynote speaker for the Undergraduate Research at the Capitol Poster Conference in Harrisburg, Pa., on March 19. He shared his passion about learning, teaching and sharing as key tools for sustaining civilization.

“He talked about the importance of taking what we learn today and carrying it into the future; he talked about how every human makes an imprint, and the responsibility we have as citizens of planet Earth,” said Kelleen Lanagan, a geosciences major in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

“He told us that scientists must discover what no one else knows; that we must commit our efforts to help future generations,” added Andrea Karelitz, a meteorology major in the college. “At the URC-PA conference, I was delighted to share the concept of space weather with people who had never heard of it; I am also very excited about contributing to the offering of the first space weather course at Penn State." Andrea’s cutting-edge research, "Advances in Forecasting of Solar Energetic Particle Events Based on Coronal Mass Ejections" seeks to avert potential damage to satellites, the power grid, GPS and ground-based aviation by forecasting dangerous SEP events (Solar Energy Particles) caused by CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections), highly ionized earth-bound particles from the sun.

The conference featured top-achieving students from universities and colleges throughout Pennsylvania, showcasing their research projects to state legislators, legislative staff, educators and students. Penn State was granted eight coveted entrant spots; the students were selected by the Office of Undergraduate Education. Five of those selected were from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. In addition to Lanagan and Karelitz, Jamey Gigliotti (materials science and engineering), Patrick Ritsko (energy, business and finance) and Daniel Tauriello (geography) presented their research. 

Jamey Gigliotti is carrying his research findings into the future for medical imaging and diagnostics with Miniaturized Medical Ultrasound Transducers. “This research touches the lives of most everyone. While many of the students, educators and legislators with whom I spoke had no previous knowledge of medical imaging transducers, microfabrication or scientific research, they could see the scope of my project and others like it impacting medical care in the future.”

Kelleen Lanagan is intrigued by natural disasters, and she is making her mark studying how the after-effects from great earthquakes above magnitude 5 may trigger activity of nearby volcanoes. She hopes to answer how the shifting of the earth’s crust (subduction) may play a significant role in volcanic activity. “With more research, this relationship will be useful in predicting which earthquakes can trigger which volcanoes and ultimately save human lives. Rep. Scott Conklin and a staff member of Sen. Jake Corman were among the people who stopped by to ask about my research poster, 'Exploring Interactions between Subduction Zone Earthquakes and Volcanic Activity in the South Central Alaskan Subduction Zone.'”

Patrick Ritsko’s research is a result of a summer spent living and working with earth scientists in the Florida Everglades National Park, at a spot very closer to the Gulf of Mexico coast. "Tidal Effects on Carbon Dioxide Storage and Mixing Ratios within a Florida Everglades Mangrove Forest" provides data that point to significant changes in carbon dioxide storage levels with changes in water levels due to ocean tides. The importance of Patrick’s research is easily correlated with the prospect of climate change bringing about higher worldwide water levels, affecting carbon dioxide exchange rates. 

An up-close photograph of culex pipiens — a really nasty disease-transmitting mosquito — caught the eye of anyone passing by Daniel Tauriello’s poster, "A Spatio-Temporal Analysis of West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania." “This research is important because it is the first of its kind to combine human infection data with temperature and precipitation data; this lays the groundwork for further studies in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.” Dan’s poster depicted a comparison study of the outbreaks of West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania in 2003 and 2012 — a year that saw 243 WNV fatalities in the U.S. 

The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences continues to thrive on the cutting edge of research in earth sciences and engineering materials, and thanks Alley for inspiring future leaders in scientific discovery.

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Last Updated April 10, 2013