Redefining the Classroom

Grab Hold of Your Future

Russell White

What are you studying and what are the goals you've set for yourself?

I am a senior in geology and will graduate this spring. My senior thesis project studies the magnetic fabric of rocks from central Australia, and will lead to a better understanding of how rocks deform at great depths. I plan to attend graduate school for a master's degree in geology. I've been accepted, with funding, to New Mexico Tech, where my masters work will examine the affects a small amount of opal cement has on the strength and consolidation of sediment approaching the Nankai Trough subduction zone. I will be looking at the properties of cores obtained from the Ocean Drilling Project (ODP) using a wide variety of instruments and techniques including, electron microprobe, and wet-chemistry analysis along with one-dimensional consolidation tests. The models and ideas formed at the Nankai Trough will later be applied to other locations throughout the Pacific.

What attracted you to geology in general and to LSSU's program in particular?

I’ve always been interested in the earth sciences. It only took talking to LSSU geology professor Lew Brown for me to decide that geology at Lake State was for me. The department perfectly fits my needs as a student. Not only does LSSU geology have hands-on labs, many classes require presentations in front of students and faculty. The rigorous curriculum prepares me to for any graduate school in the country. And with the wonderful geology right here in our own back yard, most courses offer field work and field-based projects. That’s something not many other universities can offer, certainly not one this size.

Russell White's summer field study of lower-crust rock layers in central Australia
Russell White
Russell climbs granite boulders at Devils Marble Conservation Reserve (slide show)

What kind of field experiences have you enjoyed so far in the program?

The field experience is second to none. This past summer, I spent almost six weeks in the central Australian outback, helping a graduate student from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with master’s research. I also collected samples for my senior thesis and worked with faculty from many other universities. Our department’s eight-week summer field experience course went all over the U.S. conducting field work. We spent three weeks in New Mexico, three weeks in California, eleven days in the Appalachian Mountains from Ohio to Georgia, and then nine days in South Dakota. In 2003, LSSU’s geology club organized a trip to Hawaii for 10 days, where we were able to dip our rock hammers in an active lava flow. It doesn’t get much better than this for a geologist.

Have you had a moment that makes all the studying and working worthwhile?

The memorable moments are really too many to list. Way up there would be spending time in Hawaii and Australia, or presenting my research on sequence stratigraphy to the Michigan Legislature in Lansing. However, if I had to pick one moment, it would have to be my start in the department’s magnetics lab. I was a sophomore and working in one of the adjacent geology rooms. I overheard Professor Paul Kelso and Dave Tatum, a senior, talking about some pretty interesting stuff. I stuck my lowly-sophomore head in the door and asked what they were doing. Without even dropping a beat, Dr. Kelso gladly invited me in and explained what research they were doing. I told him that I could handle an ambitious research project as well, and within a few weeks I was working on analyzing samples from a mine in South Africa. He had no qualms whatsoever in throwing me into challenging work, stuff that’s usually done in senior research. This opportunity was instrumental in my success as a student and I will always remember that day as a pivotal moment in my life.

What kind of summer studies, internships, or jobs have you had that related to your experience with geology?

Two years before attending Lake State, and for many summer breaks while I’ve been at Lake State, I’ve worked on Great Lakes Fleet freighters with names like the Arthur M. Anderson (which was following the Edmund Fitzgerald the night it sank in Lake Superior) and the Edwin H. Gott (a thousand-footer). My time on the lakes has allowed me to pay for school while giving me another real-world work experience. Even though working on lake boats doesn’t pertain to geology, the skills and experience I’ve acquired has influenced me for the rest of my life.

What are some of your outside interests?

I enjoy snowboarding, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, canoeing, camping, fishing, snorkeling, amateur caving, and anything else outdoors. There are hundreds of miles of trails on state and federal land west of the Sault, with dozens of campgrounds. Just across the International Bridge, on Lake Superior, you have one of Canada’s largest parks.

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