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Research Opportunities for Undergraduates


All undergraduate students are encouraged to undertake a research project as part of the Honors program or an independent or directed study course; a majority of students take advantage of this opportunity. Students work closely with faculty members and other students on research projects. This outside-the- classroom interaction is one of the important by-products of the program in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.


Interested students are encouraged to either email or go knock on the door of professors of interest and talk with them about possible projects!


The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) at Vanderbilt focuses on four research areas:

(i) Solid-Earth dynamics: transport, reaction and evolution of fluids and magmas in the crust;

(ii) Life processes: Earth’s record of life, ecology, and the adaptation to changing climate and environment;

(iii) Surface and atmosphere dynamics: processes governing Earth’s thin sphere of air, water, and sediment that sustains life;

(iv) Coupled human-environment interactions: pursuing the complex and dynamic intersection of Earth processes and human activity.

Ongoing research projects by EES faculty span the entire globe, with field areas in the southwestern United States and Pacific coast, the Appalachian Mountains, Bangladesh, Peru, Brazil, New Zealand, Iceland, Australia, Sri Lanka and Antarctica. Undergraduate students are active participants and contributors to research projects, and this may involve field work, laboratory experiments, and computer modelling.


Current and Recent Undergraduate Research:

A sample of projects that are (or were) supported by the Vaughan Undergraduate Assistantships, National Science Foundation grants to faculty members or the Vanderbilt University Summer Research Program is listed below. Those marked with an asterisk were presented at a technical session at a national or regional meeting of the Geological Society of America or a session of the American Geophysical Union.

Amelia Baran (2020): Feldspars as a Record of Magmatic and Volcanic Processes at Akaroa Volcanic Complex

Andrew McKinnis (2020): A Preliminary Report: Ice Shelf Velocity Visualization Using the Community Ice Sheet Model (CISM)

Hannah Salaverry  (2020): Last millennium aragonite speleothem trace element record of water flow and prior carbonate precipitation

Liam Kelly  (2020): Modeling heat extraction from magma bodies at depth in the Central TVZ

Lila Johnson  (2020): A new record of a Late Triassic ichthyosaur with Jurassic-like dentition revealed by micro-CT scanning

Maggie Syversen  (2020):  Fluid dynamics of the Enigmatic Ediacaran Organism Pteridinium

Thomas Maertens  (2020): White-Lipped Peccary effects on forest structure and diversity

Yiruo Xu  (2020): Investigating the applicability of speleothem strontium isotope paleo-precipitation proxies in coastal California

The following projects are the senior honors theses that were presented Spring 2019:

Madeline Allen: Evaluating Flood Resilience in Rural Communities: Case-Based Assessment of Dyer County, Tennessee

Umang Chaudhry:  Gentrification and Access to Public Transit in Nashville, TN

Andrew Grant:  Aerosol Salt Accumulation: An inexpensive and technically simpler tool for soil chronologies in Ong Valley, Antarctica

Melissa Halstead:  Visible signals of white-lipped peccary influence on nutrient cycling

Matthew Martin:  Four or More is a Crowd: Assessing Competition Between Australian Dasyurids Via Dental Microwear Texture Analysis

Andrea Richardson:  Geologic map of the Northeastern Unicoi and Northwestern Iron Mountain Gap Quadrangles, Tennessee Appalachians

Honors in Earth and Environmental Sciences

The EES Honors program provides research experience and mentoring in preparation for a career or graduate studies in earth and environmental sciences. Interested students should apply to the undergraduate adviser for entry into the Honors program fall semester, junior year. A grade point average of 3.3 or higher both cumulatively and in courses that count toward the EES major is required for admission to the Honors program. To apply, please fill out the survey found here.