2012 Senior Thesis Presentations

Helen Hill | EAPS News
Thursday, June 7, 2012

Friday, May 18th, was EAPS' annual senior thesis presentation day.

Each year, graduating seniors majoring in EAPS present a thesis in completion of their Bachelor of Science Degree. This year we had a class of 10 students specializing in areas across the earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences.

For her senior thesis, Exploring the Microbe-Mediated Soil H2 Sink: A Lab-Based Study of the Physiology and Related H2 Consumption of Isolates from the Harvard Forest LTER, Deepa Rao worked with atmospheric chemistry graduate student Laura Meredith to understand and characterize the role of microbes in drawing down atmospheric H2 into forest soils. Rao's study earned her this year's Goetze Prize,  given "in recognition of innovative experimental design, care in data collection, and sensitive application of results to research problems." This fall, Rao heads to Georgetown University to begin a two-year Masters in Culture, Communication, and Technology.

Clarion Hess, whose advisor was Assistant Professor of Geophysics Alison Malcolm, reported on her modeling study Finding the Diffusion Coefficient of a Geothermal Field. Hess had extracted the wave diffusion coefficient using seismic interferometry from a microseismic dataset for a geothermal field. By comparison with synthetic models, she found that a wider and denser distribution of sources was required in order to accurately extract the diffusion coefficient.

Working with her advisor Professor of Geology, Sam Bowring, Amber Stangroom, used U-Pb geochronology to date the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary as observed on the Kaiparowits Plateau in Utah, as a means of calculating the timespan of the related Oceanic Anoxic Event II. Originally from Tyngsborough, MA, Stangroom will shortly begin work at the environmental consulting company, ENVIRON.

Jocelyn Fuentes' thesis was Magmatic Processes that Generated the Rim Andesites of Medicine Lake Volcano in Northern California. Fuentes carried out geothermometry experiments in the lab to simulate andesite formation conditions inside the magma chamber. Jocelyn's advisor was Professor of Geology Tim Grove. Fuentes grew up in Williamsburg, VA.

Advised by synoptic meteorologist and Senior Lecturer Lodovica Illari, Roman Kowch (a joint major in Physics with an EAPS focus in PAOC)  presented his work Evidence of Thermal Equilibration in Large-Scale Atmospheric Blocking Episodes over Europe and the North Atlantic During Winter. Using reanalysis data, Roman was able to show that wintertime blocking composites have indeed the hallmark of thermally equilibrated modes, with low diabatic heating and calm surface winds. Kowch returns in the Fall to begin an EAPS 5th year masters in atmospheric science.

Stephanie Sallum, also a joint major in EAPS and Physics, who has been working with Professor of Planetary Sciences Rick Binzel and Research Scientist Mike Person, presented her thesis work Pluto's Atmosphere from the May 22, 2011 Stellar Occultation. The results of Sallum's work show that Pluto's atmosphere has been gradually increasing in volume and decreasing in temperature over the last two decades. Originally from Rhode Island, Sallum heads to the Ph.D. program in Astronomy at the University of Arizona this fall.

For her senior thesis Investigation of the Depth and Diameter of Simple Craters in the Lunar Mare, Madeleine Clark carried out a detailed comparison of crater characteristics in different basins as observed in topographic maps from NASA's  LOLA program. Clark's advisor was Professor of Geophysics Maria Zuber. Originally from Tulsa, OK, Clark will shortly take up a position as an Instructor at the Navy's Nuclear Power School.

Advised by Assistant Professor of Geology Oliver Jagoutz, Anna Brunner had been studying Decarbonization Related to Continental Arc Magmatism as a Possible Mechanism for Cretaceous Warming. Brunner has been working with bedrock maps of western North America to estimate the amount of CO2 that could have been released during the Cretaceous Era by decarbonation of carbonate rocks due to the heat of nearby magmatic intrusions. In particular she was trying to see whether the CO2 released by "contact metamorphism" could explain the unusually warm climate during the Cretaceous (which was ~6-14K warmer in the global average than today). From Sudbury, MA, Brunner moves on to an internship at NASA Goddard working  with the Sample Analysis at Mars team, which performs analog studies to help interpret Mars Science Laboratory results.

Advised by EAPS' Research Scientist Yves Bernabe along with Assistant Professor  Jesse Kroll and Postdoctroal Associate Christopher Leonardi  (oboth f MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Cassandra Swanberg, a double major in Chemical Engineering and EAPS (with a concentration in environmental systems) shared her modeling study Characterizing the Evolution of Porosity and Permeability in Porous Media Undergoing Pressure Solution Creep. Swanberg's work focused on using the "Lattice Boltzmann" method and "pore network models" to extract various morphological properties of simulated sphere packs subject to pressure dissolution. Among other pore-scale properties, the models she used enabled her to calculate permeability, porosity, connectivity, and pore size. Swanberg, who is originally from Lyford, TX, will shortly begin working with ExxonMobil.

Finally, Jessica Ruprecht (advised by Shep Doeleman, Principal Research Scientist and Assistant Director of  Haystack Observatory, and Associate Professor of Physics  Scott Hughes) presented her study Testing General Relativity Using Millimeter Wavelength Radio Interferometry of Sgr A* (the black hole at the center of our galaxy). Originally from McKinleyville, CA, Ruprecht returns this fall to study for a 5th year masters in EAPS/ Planetary Science with Dr. Amanda Bosh and Professor Rick Binzel.

Special thanks to Jane Connor, EAPS' Lecturer II from Writing Across the Curriculum, for her work supporting and coaching this year's graduating class. Connor, who provides one-on-one writing and effective presentation support to EAPS undergraduates as well as undergraduates in other courses, holds a BA in English from Swarthmore College, and an MA in Languages, Literature and Communication, with an emphasis on Communication Theory, from Columbia University.