Ed Marshall '12 has known that he wanted to work with rocks since he was five years old. "I am absolutely rabid about geology" he declares with a grin. Last summer Marshall had the rare opportunity to experience the complex and exciting, albeit exhausting, world of geological research. Marshall was accepted into a competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Internship at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. The internship is a ten-week program, funded by the National Science Foundation, focusing on intensive research experience.
Marshall's work centered upon the Bushveld Complex, an enormous, two billion-year-old magma chamber deposit in South Africa. Interpreting data collected by field scientists, Marshall studied how the composition of the liquid changed as the upper zone of the chamber cooled and crystallized. The work was demanding and the results not always ideal. Marshall remembers a couple of 18 hours days spent in the lab. "You might work on one project all day, put everything into that one test, and then get stuck," he recalls.
Yet despite these frustrating days, Marshall's experience was overwhelmingly positive. He had the chance to meet some of his science idols such as Ed Mathez and Neil Degrasse Tyson, as well as collaborate with other students that shared his passion.
"Science can really connect people of all backgrounds and places…it is a language [and] a culture." There were other perks too. Interns were given a generous monetary stipend, and the chance to use some rare equipment including an Electron Micro Probe. But for Marshall, the real reward was his sense of growth and accomplishment. "I learned that this field of research is what I want to do in my life, and I now have greater faith in myself that I can go and really accomplish something."
Coming from a small liberal arts school like Earlham immediately set Marshall apart from the other REU interns, most of whom are students at large research institutions. Yet Marshall did not feel at a disadvantage.
"Earlham is very good at catering to students with a lot of enthusiasm. It provides an environment for great independent studies where an individual can go as far as they want," he says.
Marshall is excited for his future in geology (he can't stop beaming as he talks about his internship!) and encourages anyone who is passionate to apply for an REU in their field of choice.
"You will have the time of your life," he says. "Plus it's just plain COOL to walk by dinosaurs on your way to work!"
Ed Marshall 2012
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
Major at Earlham: Geosciences
Interests: Geology, research opportunities, The Bushveld Complex