Friday, May 11, 2018

URSP Student Rebecca Schmidt Follows the Chemical Processes Involved with Changing the Vesuvius Megaporphyry to Unakite

Minerals are predictably produced in a specific environment, regardless of their optical, crystal, chemical and physical properties. This is what excites me the most, their predictable nature can be applied across a combination of different scientific mediums to help bridge the gap between process and formation. I took a two-day field trip to the Appalachians, with Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, where I got to see rocks dated at over a billion years old. On the last day, I saw an atypical granite, the Vesuvius Megaporphyry, that showed noticeable alteration to unakite progressing throughout the formation. Seeing the rock first hand prompted a whole slew of questions regarding the assemblage, but one stood out the most, when did alteration take place and why was it drastically different in age and composition from the surrounding rocks at this location? With the help of my mentor, Dr. Julia Nord, I was able to start to begin to answer these questions. Mineral investigation through thin section examination, whole rock analysis, and working with the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and the Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) I was able to follow, at the micron scale, the chemical processes involved with changing the Vesuvius Megaporphyry to unakite.

Like many scientific questions, you go into it with an idea of what you expect to see. It is not until you really start to get up close with your data that you realize things do not always progress as they should. This has been the most interesting part about the whole project, in that, even though the minerals behave predictably, they do so under specific conditions that can not always be easily inferred. Always evolving, this research has only helped to spark my curiosity regarding other scientific questions that hopefully will be used to create a thesis project and/or eventual publication.