IWA Student Presents Paper at National Conference

When Kate Sullivan '21 presented her research at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Dec. 10, she had no idea the conference was the largest gathering of Earth scientists in the world. 

What she did know was that what she was doing was a big deal.

"Getting an abstract accepted to this conference is a great accomplishment and I am very proud of Kate," said Dr. Michael Farner, IWA's AP chemistry and physics teacher. 

Kate's presentation was a team effort, presented with a group of students who are all part of GeoFORCE, a program run by the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences. Designed to encourage middle and high school students to learn more about — and consider future study and careers in — the Earth sciences, it's a competitive program, with admission offered by application only. Kate applied as a student at Hogg Middle School, and has been involved with GeoFORCE for the last four years.

"My role in our presentation was as the hydrologist on the team," she explained. "Our team’s research was based on what we did for our senior project for GeoFORCE. We were assigned a fictional planet with certain parameters, and we were required to pitch why our planet was worth terraforming."

Kate researched ways to obtain water from underground and on the planet’s surface. For the conference presentation, the team focused on how their previous work could apply to terraforming planets.

While it's common practice for college students to present their research on conferences like this, it's less so for high school students. Kate and her team have been asked to present their work at UT's Jackson School of Geosciences Symposium next March.

"These past four years with GeoFORCE have been a wonderful experience," said Kate, who was able to travel to places like the Grand Canyon to study science. "I’ve learned way more about geology than I could possibly imagine, and I love it! One of the wonderful things about GeoFORCE is that it continues to reach out to students even when they’re in college. So no matter what I do or where I go, I will always be a part of the GeoFORCE family."

Up next for Kate, in addition to preparing for the March presentation, is applying to be a counselor on a future GeoFORCE trip, sharing her love of this program with middle and high school students. And while she isn't sure if she'll study science in college or beyond, she said the lessons she's learned in this program, and the experiences she's had, will stay with her all her life.