Posted: January 8, 2010
By Madgalena Georgieva '10
When Marsha Allen FP'10 joined the Museum of Natural History in New York City for a summer internship, she felt like a kid who landed on her favorite playground. For Allen, who is a geology major and an economics minor, looking at rocks all day is an all-engrossing activity. "Geology is my passion," she said. "My friends laugh at me because I look at rocks and smile."
At the museum, Allen studied calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs), the first rocks to form in the solar system. Because they are of close composition and age to the sun, the rocks can offer insightful information about the solar system around 4.5 billion years ago. Allen and her team dubbed an atypical type-A inclusion the "Eye of Horus" because of its similarity to an eye, with a pupil and iris.
"During that time I didn't realize the repercussions of doing research," said Allen, who studied the CAIs with the help of research associate Harold Connolly. "The Oh-my-God moment came when the abstract was accepted to a peer-reviewed journal."
In March, Allen will present her research at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, hosted by NASA in Houston. In February, the museum is sending her and a couple of other students to Hawaii to study isotopes, atoms of the same element but with different numbers of neutrons.
Allen, who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, has been on the road a number of times. In October, she attended the 2009 Geological Society of America annual conference, a trip sponsored by the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts. During spring break 2009 she traveled to Death Valley, California, with Mount Holyoke geology professor Steven Dunn for his field course. There, among explorations of snake tracks, ancient lakes, and mud cracks, Allen felt an explosion of her passion for geology.