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Bryan Heyer ES’18 granted National Science Foundation summer research fellowship

By Jenna Pizzi

Bryan HeyerBryan Heyer ES’18 used the summer break as an opportunity to get out of the classroom to gain hands-on experience studying in the field with distinguished geoscientists.

Heyer completed a nine-week fellowship with the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates, studying the earth’s critical zones. Critical Zones are areas spanning from the tops of the trees to the to the base of weathered bedrock with complex systems because of the intricate interactions between the rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms that make up the zone.

The fellowship began with an intensive orientation program at the Susquehanna Shale Hills Observatory in the Appalachian Mountain Valley and Ridge where fellows, which included other undergraduates and elementary and high school science teachers, learned about geology, hydrology, ecology, soils and land use in the zones. They took water and soil samples and performed surface water and plant studies, learning how to use tools in the field and manage large sets of data.

"The most exciting part of this overall remarkable opportunity was quickly being integrated into the entire critical zone program and having my own aspect of research to own," said Heyer

The orientation then moved to the Christiana River Basin Critical Zone Observatory where the fellows will studied three different experimental watersheds in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware while comparing these areas to the Appalachian Mountain Valley and Ridge.

Heyer said he was glad to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Susan Brantley, a Penn State researcher who is renowned in the world of geoscience.

At the end of the filed research, participants worked with faculty advisors on research topics before creating a poster or oral presentation. The research was presented at the Consortium of Universities for the Achievement of Hydraulic Science’s Biennial Colloquium on Science and Engineering in Shepherdstown, West Virginia in August.

"I was grateful to gain field experience at many different sites and learn a variety of techniques for collecting data and samples out in the field," said Heyer. "Being involved in every step of research from start to finish was truly a unique  and beneficial opportunity." 

Group of studentsHeyer said it is the small size and close knit community at University of the Sciences that allowed him an opportunity like this fellowship to get needed research experience he hopes will translate into a career as an environmental scientist.

“As someone in the environmental science field, it was imperative to get hands-on experience in various labs and in the field as soon as possible,” Heyer said. “USciences provides these opportunities from your first semester to your last. The university provides students with not only an amazing education, but also shapes us in the lab and real world prior to graduation.”

Heyer credits the guidance of his advisor Kevin Wolbach MS with helping him find these opportunities and be successful in his applications.

“He took it upon himself to mentor me and make sure I got the most of my time at USciences,” Heyer said. “Thanks to his persistence was offered this very rich research experience after only my second year. Without his backing I feel I would be missing out on a great deal of opportunities.”

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