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WKU geology major studying meteorite

Senior geology major Kristin Leftwich of Kingston Springs, Tenn., has completed eight weeks of active exploration in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The project was titled “Classification and Measurement of Inclusions in the Allende Meteorite.”

Leftwich worked with Dr. Denton S. Ebel in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences, examining calcium-rich and aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs), primarily in the Allende meteorite. Approximately two tons of this carbonaceous chondrite meteorite fell and were recovered from a strewn field in the Chihuahua State in Mexico in 1969. The inclusions they studied originally formed as free-floating aggregates of mineral dust, some of which were partially or fully melted to form droplets in the solar nebula.

Leftwich studied the relative abundances of different inclusions in meteorites in the museum’s collection, hypotheses for their formation, and why the measurements of the inclusions are important in testing such hypotheses. She also mapped the distribution of elements in both the inclusions and matrix, and gained important expertise using the Scanning Electron Microscope, Electron Microprobe, and image analysis software.

Leftwich will be continuing aspects of her research after returning to WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology and will be presenting results at the 40th annual Lunar and Planetary Science conference in March 2009.

Click here for more information on REU opportunities at the American Museum of Natural History.

Eight WKU geology majors have participated in REU opportunities the past five years and another 25 have participated in summer field-based geology courses or have been able to work in analytical labs.

For information, contact Andrew Wulff at (270) 745-5976.

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