What’s happening? We’d love to hear how your internship is going! This summer I’m interning at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) under the mentorship of Dr. Brenda Buck in the Geosciences Department. I am analyzing local sources of naturally-occurring asbestos minerals using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) with an energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) attachment. The SEM allows me to view very small asbestos fibers and particles, while the EDS analysis tells me how much of which atoms make up the particles. Using this information, I am compiling a database that includes all of the samples’ chemical data and measurements of the particles. The particle’s chemistry and aspect ratio between its length and width help inform about its toxicity to humans and its potential threat to populations nearby. This work is especially important because southern Nevada is very dry and dusty. Particles get into the air very easily and can be carried by wind and dust storms miles away from their original source. Many people also go out into the area on all-terrain vehicles, horses, bicycles, and on foot. This activity disturbs dust and soil causing people to end up with dirt and dust on themselves that they can then track into their cities and neighborhoods.
I have really loved working at UNLV under the advisement of Dr. Buck. I’ve learned not only a great deal about asbestos, but also about conducting controversial scientific research and the experience of being a female scientist in a field dominated by men. Everyone I’ve met and worked with at UNLV has been very helpful, encouraging, and kind. I’ve also enjoyed exploring some of the nearby geology in the state park Valley of Fire, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. In my last few weeks here I will wrap up my sample analysis and data collection, gathering as much information as I can before leaving. I plan to use this data for my senior thesis and a scientific paper for publication.
How I heard about my internship: As someone majoring in geology and hoping to pursue work within the health field, I was excited to learn from a professor last year about medical geology — a little niche in the field of geology concerning the impact our natural environment has on our health. I began researching more about the subject and came across an interview with my advisor, Dr. Buck, about her work in medical geology. I contacted Dr. Buck to learn more from someone doing this type of research first hand. Dr. Buck was very helpful and gracious enough to answer all of my questions and provide me with more resources about the subject. When I asked what research she would be conducting this summer and if she could use the help of an undergraduate student, she immediately told me about the asbestos project and offered me a position as a Research Assistant for the summer.
Why I applied for my internship: Although I have a great interest in the health field, I wanted an internship that would better support my undergraduate academics in geology. Furthermore, I wanted to gain more experience in geology outside of the classroom to learn how I may be able to fuse together my two interests of health and geology in my future. Most importantly, I felt like I had found someone (Dr. Buck, my advisor for the summer) in a field I’m keenly interested in, who was supportive and inspiring me before I had even met her, and I really wanted to work with and learn from her.