MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR
We have had a successful 2017-18 academic year and look forward to the next. This year was marked by the significant million dollar donation by UTEP 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Allen Gilmer (M.S. Geology, 1987) to fund the Kenneth F. and Patricia Clark Distinguished Chair in the Department of Geological Sciences. This endowment will be used by the Distinguished Chair to enhance research activities that advance the field of Economic Geology and Resource Extraction.
This year, the Department of Geological sciences graduated 33 B.S., 15 M.S. and 2 Ph.D. students graduated and on their way to careers and graduate school. This year’s students received approximately $24,000 in UTEP and departmental scholarships, and 65% of graduating graduate students earned scholarships and research monies from a number of outside sources. The 2017-18 academic year began with the welcoming of fourteen new graduate students with 7 MS Geology students, 5 PhD Geology students and 2 ESCI students.
Student success highlights were
- Marisol Dominguez received the NSF Graduate Student Fellowship award for her hydrology project (Mentor: Hugo Gutierrez)
- Undergraduate Guadalupe Rodriguez earned a coveted Outstanding Student Paper Award at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans for her poster “Estimating groundwater discharge into the ocean in the Yucatan Peninsula”. (Mentor: Hugo Gutierrez)
- Amanda Labrado (SIPES Texas scholarship recipient/Mentor: Benjamin Brunner), Claire Bailey (Mentor: Laura Serpa) and Rachelle Kernen (Mentor: Kate Giles) have been selected as interns with Chevron, Exxon and BP America this summer (three of the largest major oil and gas exploration and production companies in the US).
- S. student in Environmental Science, Julio Ceniceros (Mentor: Thomas Gill) received the first place poster award at the 2017-18 UTEP Graduate student research EXPO for his poster “Identifying the Abundance of Soil, Vegetation, and Rock Using Multiple Endmember Spectral Mixture Analysis (MESMA) in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma”.
- Amanda Labrado (Mentor: Benjamin Brunner) won the prestigious Shoemaker Scholarship the Texas Section of the AIPG. UTEP Geology students have been awarded this scholarship 3 years in a row, which has not been equaled in the history of the Texas awards:
http://aipg-tx.org/aipg-texas-scholarship-committee-chair-announces-2018-texas-scholarship-award-selections/ (Victor Garcia (2016), Anna Mwangi (2017), Amanda Labrado (2018))
- Katalina Salas (Mentor: Deana Pennington) and Iyasu Eibedingil (Mentor: Thomas Gill) won Diana Natalicio Environmental Internships
- Evey Gannaway (Mentor: Kate Giles) was selected for the Diana Natalicio Dissertation Fellowship.
- Anthony Marrufo and Nicholas Howell were funded, by the Cearley Undergraduate Scholarship in Geosciences.
We thank the university, alumni, President Natalicio and other funding sources for this support. Approximately 21% of our students including undergraduates and graduates received scholarships in recognition of their academic progress.
We are blessed with active alumni who are working diligently to support current students. James Cearley’s Field Geology Experience Fund is over $250,000. Proceeds from this endowment heavily subsidize field camp and other field-related research of our students. A new fund, initiated by Gail Arnold and Benjamin Brunner, is also being created to help graduate students pay tuition while doing internships.
In fall 2017 we welcomed the faculty addition of Jason Ricketts. Jason adds new dimensions to our research such as the field of thermochronology.
We also welcome seismologist Julien Chaput as new faculty in November 2018.
Richard Jarvis has officially retired. We will greatly miss him teaching his very popular physical geography course and all the mentoring he provided the department chair.
Laura Serpa and Terry Pavlis also accepted phased retirement. They will be with us half of the year for the next three years, but we will miss the incredible teaching and student mentorship they have provided us.
Lixin Jin and Lin Ma were awarded promotions to Associate Professor with tenure. This was well-deserved for their extraordinary success in teaching and research.
Gail Arnold has moved on to a new position as Director, Medical Professions Institute in the College of Science. Her contributions to the department were extremely valuable and it will take a tremendous team effort to replace her.
UTEP’s student engagement and enhancement initiative, UTEP EDGE, is focused on extending students’ learning beyond the classroom. UTEP EDGE provides an opportunity for the Geological & Environmental Sciences to further increase promotion of our students in active research and internships. Many have participated in internships in major energy companies, government, other universities and environmental organizations. Alex Eddy, Kate Grisi, Piper Poe, Rafael Delfin, Joel Castro, Alan Vennemann and Perry Houser have summer internship offers with the Department of Defense, Chesapeake Energy, Exxon Exploration and Production Company, Hess Corporation, the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory and USCI- ISI (Information Sciences Institute).
Our faculty has been busy, landing approximately $1 million in new research grants including
- Xu, Arnold, Brunner, Langford, "Can Phototrophy-Driven Sulfur Cycling Make Crystallization Water of Gypsum Bioavailable? – Defining a New Habitability Index for Gypsum-Dominated Extreme Environments", Sponsored by NASA
- Velasco, Karplus, Gonzalez-Huizar, "RAPID: Seismic Deployment for Capturing Aftershocks of the September 2017 Chiapas and Puebla Mexico Earthquakes", Sponsored by NSF
- Karplus, Harder, Kaip, “NSF-NERC: Thwaites Interdisciplinary Margin Evolution (TIME): The Role of Shear Margin Dynamics in the Future Evolution of the Thwaites Drainage Basin”
and 47 publications, including
- Goodell, Mahar, Mickus, Sandoval, (2017). The presence of a stable “Megablock” bounded by Active Zones (Mobile Belts) in the southwestern North American Proterozoic craton. Precambrian Res. 300, 273-288
- Tong, Wang, Gill, Lei, Wang, (2017). Intensified dust storms and valley fever infection in the southwestern United States. Geophysical Res. Letters, 44, 4304-4312. doi/10.1002/2017GL073524
- Thompson, Velasco, Zamora, Hussein, (2017). Geophysical constraints on the crustal structure of the Southern Rio Grande Rift. To appear in Bull. Seis. Soc. Am, 107(3), 1118-1128.
Richard “Rip” Langford was awarded the 2018 AAPG Distinguished Educator Award. Rip is highly deserving of this award for his excellent teaching, dedicated mentorship and positive attitude that rubs off on everyone he works with.
Undergraduate Coordinator Christine Sanchez joined us in March 2018 to replace Joel Gilbert who retired in December 2018. We had a great turnout for Joel’s surprise retirement party and wish him well. Christine has taken over advising our undergraduate students and works diligently to recruit more majors.
Kristen Gonzalez also moved on to take a position as Business Center Specialist in the College of Science business center. Kristen was the Chair’s right hand, eyes & ears, and budget wizard since I arrived in 2015, so I hope I can survive without her.
Members of our Department were instrumental in planning and organizing the 2018 Southwest Section American Association of Petroleum Geologists Annual Convention which was held in El Paso, TX in April, hosted by the El Paso Geological Society. Ph.D. students James Rutkofske (Chairman of the Convention), Claire Bailey (President of the El Paso Geological Society), Evey Gannaway (Abstracts Editor of the Convention) worked together with faculty and staff (Drs. Gail Arnold, Benjamin Brunner, Kate Giles, Rip Langford, Annette Veilleux) to make this important event a great success. UTEP 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Allen Gilmer (M.S. Geology, 1987) gave the keynote address “Interesting Times!”.
Join us as UTEP Geological Sciences moves forward to learn more about how we are using education and research to help society deal with today’s complex geological, environmental, and energy issues. We are happy to include you in our efforts.
Chair, Geological & Environmental Sciences