Gabrielle Walters; Undergraduate Student
Growing up I saw myself as many things and geologist was one of them; I was always collecting rocks and wondering about volcanoes. But somewhere along the road of growing up I forgot about my passion and decided to follow one of my other interests by majoring in German with a minor in politics. During junior year I felt rather lost and was very unsure about my future so I dropped my political science class, started taking guitar, and by the following year I finally listened to my heart and took Mineralogy. I was in love and I found my calling.
- Hometown/High School?
Waukesha, WI/ Waukesha South High School
- Year in School and expected graduation date?
Senior and I’ll be graduating in May 2013!
- What brought you to UWM?
The wide range of subjects UWM offers and being able to stay close to my family.
- What convinced you to major in Geosciences?
I’m minoring in Geosciences, which I only did because I didn’t have the time to major in it. I felt that this was the path I had to follow when I kept catching myself staring at rocks around campus and wondering what minerals were in them.
- What field of study would you like to go into and how would you describe it to a prospective student?
I’m really interested in Mineralogy and Volcanology. I don’t know too much about volcanology yet, but I hope to. What I would really like to do is focus on alterations of minerals within the realm of volcanology. I am specifically interested in looking at mineral alterations from the gases that fumaroles emit as well certain mineralogy aspects of volcanoes.
- What's been your best experience so far?
My best experience so far has been the trip I took recently to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. I got a little taste of what my future may look like by hiking through the park and collecting samples from fumaroles to see what kind of alterations the fumaroles can provide. I was also able to go spelunking for the first time and climbed a dormant volcano. I loved it!
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in field trips, field work, or travel as part of your education?
Yes! I’ve been to Upper Michigan a couple times for field trips like mineralogy and petrology; mineralogy was my favorite. I loved being able to be on my own and collect beautiful mineral samples.
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in a student research project while at UWM?
Yes, last spring I took an x-ray analysis course where everyone had to work on their own project for the duration of the class. I was able to work with PhD student Teri Gerard on her samples from Hawaii. My focus was doing x-ray diffraction (XRD) and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) on ten samples that Teri collected from fumaroles at the Kilauea Iki crater. The Kilauea Iki crater is at the summit of the Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii. My goal was to find the direction of alteration in relation to the distance from the fumaroles. I was lucky enough to get an answer from my research by obtaining mineral data from XRD and elemental data from XRF. However, I am still hoping to do more research by concentrating on only sulfur content to see if sulfur concentrations correlate to the mineral alterations and their distances from the fumaroles.
- What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in geology?
I guess being open to whatever came my way. I didn’t really get into the program until last fall, and by that point I was so excited to just finally be a part of the program that I was open to trying everything. I immediately joined geo club and by spring I was coming in on the weekends to spend time in the lab. Then in summer I was lucky enough to help Teri Gerard in the XRD lab with her research.
- How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
The department is very welcoming and open to helping students succeed. They don’t hold your hand by any means, you have to figure things out on your own, but they make sure you know what you’re doing. It is definitely the place where I feel at home on campus.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to a student who is new to the Geoscience major at UWM?
Get involved and don’t be afraid to do things by yourself! I am a German major, so there are a lot of things I haven’t been able to go to due to the timing of my other classes, but I go to whatever I can. I also don’t have the same background as everyone else so there are certain things, such as chemistry, that I need more help in but the rest of the time I cherish working on my own to push myself to learn new things on my own.
- What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
I am a big nature person so I tend to walk around the city for hours when I can. Depending on where I am headed and which route I take, I always find something new.
- What are your plans after you graduate?
I’m hoping to go to field camp in the summer and then to grad school for geology, with a focus on mineralogy and/or volcanology in the fall.