‘Digging’ into a Summer Opportunity Marcus Payne '25 is spending his summer doing geology research with Professor of Earth and Environmental Geoscience Jeffrey Rahl.
Name: Marcus Payne ’25
Hometown: Syracuse, New York
Q: What factors led you to choose W&L?
A big reason W&L was even on my radar is the financial aid. I had an opportunity to attend with a Questbridge scholarship. Some of the reasons why W&L was so high on my list were the football team, the small class sizes, low student-to-professor ratio and the beautiful outdoor spaces.
Q: You’re spending the summer doing geology research with Professor Jeff Rahl. How did you find out about this opportunity? Did anyone at W&L help?
I chose to do this geology research to get some sense of what a job in the geology field would be like. Being undecided on my major, I took the opportunity to have a taste of real-life experience in geology. I was offered this summer research opportunity by Professor Rahl, who was my professor for Intro to Geology.
Q: What kind of work are you doing?
My area of focus is the ancestral Rockies. The goal of this research is to break down rock samples from the southwestern United States into their individual grains and then use the water table, magnetic separator and heavy liquids methods to isolate the zircon and monazite crystals that can then be picked out and packaged under a microscope. The packaged crystals will be dated and used for further geochronology studies.
Q: What do you like most about it, and what has been most challenging so far?
What I like the most about this research is that I am learning every day. I started reading several articles to familiarize myself with the subject I’m researching. I’m learning through asking questions or listening to Jeff teach higher-level geology to one of the other students researching with him as well. The most challenging part of this research has been breaking down the rocks into individual grains. I have to do it by hand, so it is physically taxing.
Q: How do you think your current summer experience – and others you’ve had in the past, if applicable – will impact your future career path?
This will impact my future career path because I hope to end up in a job like this one where I have a lot of autonomy in how I choose to get my work done. There is not really a set schedule of things for me to do; I just keep myself busy for the eight hours I am working that day trying to progress as much as I can on the project. My time management and organization skills are vastly improving due to this research.
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