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It's here! New this fall is another opportunity to win cold cash. Plus you'll gain important skills for your future academic and professional careers. You can enter even if you're not conducting research in a lab. Experiential learning, creative activity, and educational experience relevant to the study of EMS may serve as the subject of your poster.

Want to know more? Check out the guidelines and deadlines on our EMS website.

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Preparing raised agricultural beds, learning about organic farming, and witnessing permaculture principles first hand is the way 14 freshmen started their Penn State college experience this summer. Students traveled to Ocho Rios, Jamaica for eight days as part of an international travel component of "Sustainability Research in Jamaica," a course offered through the Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP) and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS).

Dr. Neil Brown, research associate for The Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering, and Development in Africa (AESEDA), Ms. Kristin Thomas, director of global relations and promotions, and Ms. Kimberly Del Bright, Giles writer-in-residence for EMS team taught on the topics of sustainability, leadership, and communication.

The LEAP pride used the four sustainability principles adapted from "The Natural Step Framework," a comprehensive model that helps organizations integrate sustainable development into their strategic planning. An interdisciplinary approach helped students explore their roles as leaders in a global society, examine the social, environmental, and economic challenges of sustainable development, and practice the art of effective rhetoric and composition (English 15) to better understand and respond to arguments related to sustainability.

During the seven-week long semester, students were encouraged to integrate classroom lessons to their real world experiences. Self-discovery and changing perspectives is a common thread among their comments about their educational growth gained from this LEAP.

Alicia Janocsko, an energy, business, and finance major said, "Going to Jamaica, I didn't think I had much to offer. But I found through conversations with Jamaicans that we could respect each other, and this helped me see what they see. I gained a new perspective."
"I learned everyone can contribute to a community," said Sebastian Holler, a business major. "Even if you're young and don't know as much--I was inspired to find a way that works for the positive good."

"Through taking freezing cold showers, using a compostable toilet, climbing Dunn's River Falls, visiting the organic farms, talking to a lot of people, and eating ackee, plantains, and other foods--I think I learned a lot," said Ryan Belz, a meteorology major, "but I learned the most about myself."

Other students commented on changes in their worldview. "As Americans, I think we sometimes think we can copy and paste what we have to other places," said Tyler Thompson, an agriculture science major. "We often have good intentions, but sometimes we do it without understanding the other parts of the culture."

Adam Strickland, a biology major, was glad the group visited both tourist and non-tourist attractions. "The comparison showed us how we could see through different lenses. I didn't realize there are various ways to view a country: one as a tourist and one as a student."

To read more about what the students have to say about "Sustainability in Jamaica," go to Penn State Live.

Additional Comments from Students:
Speaking with people who are involved with sustainability and organic farming in Jamaica made me realize that some of these practices might be more possible than I originally thought.

I liked that Neil told us that he didn't bring us to Jamaica to make us feel bad. This made me feel okay to just be an observer. I didn't have to make a judgment or feel like I had to fix something. We did end up changing a small plot of land; I think we did leave an impression.
~Taylor Block

When we were at the organic farms, they made us lunch from things they had grown. I made some of the connections to my own experience with gardening, and it made me think it wasn't all that different.
I learned a lot about the U.S. and myself through this experience.
~Paige Lynch

I don't think we should come in as superiors and say let's fix it this way. We need to work together if we want to help change and make sustainability work.
~Bobby Leahey

I think as Americans we sometimes think we are entitled to tell others what to do. We need to allow Jamaicans to make their own choices.
~Saresa Stager-Hanes

I think about the future more than I did because of this experience.
~Rasheed Andrew

I learned it's about credibility, and when we listened to each other's viewpoints it was easier to establish our understanding and this helped with our credibility with our own group and also the people we came into contact with.
~Cody Dumont

This past weekend I went home, and I told my friends and family about what I did, and they're all so amazed that as a freshman in my first semester I had this kind of experience. It's just fun to talk about.
~Emily Vasko


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Holding jet fuel, hand-blown glass, and a piece of Marcellus Shale in his hands as props to illustrate the diverse study opportunities available to students of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), Dean William Easterling kicked-off the College's annual recruiting event held on March 16-17 this year. All students who are considering an EMS major are invited to attend the Earth and Mineral Sciences Exposition (EMEX).

"This is the college you can study everything you want about the Earth and do ground breaking research while enjoying a small college atmosphere within a big research institution," Easterling told prospective students and their families who came from all over the United States including Texas, Idaho, and California.

This year's overall chair, Erica Marden (senior, Material Science Engineering) recalls the influence EMEX had on her decision to enroll. As a local from State College, Pennsylvania, she didn't think she wanted to come to Penn State University because she thought a small liberal arts college would be a better fit.

"I came to EMEX and loved the feel of this college--very small and personal--it changed my mind." said Marden.

She admits to being envious of those just starting out on this journey. "Looking back four years ago, I never would've thought I'd have the chance to study abroad, participate in research, and do an internship in Africa. They're in for a treat," she said. This year's EMEX is a swan song for Marden as she is graduating in May and has been accepted by two medical schools. 

"The biggest challenge of putting on EMEX which is all student-led," said Marden, "is making sure the communication among faculty, students, alumni, and staff is strong. She credits her co-chairs, Natalie Gerber (sophomore, Energy Business and Finance), Nolan Maynard (sophomore, Environmental Systems Engineering) and Everleigh Stokes (freshman, Geography) with keeping everyone in the loop.

Seventy-two prospective students came on Friday to attend classes and shadow their student sponsors, meet with Penn State alumni in their fields, and speak to faculty and staff. Friday night, the residents of Irvin Hall, the Special Living Option for EMS, sponsor an evening of ice-breaking activities and help prospective students learn more about college life. While students socialize with their peers, parents and their families are treated to a dinner at the Atherton Hotel where they can ask questions of the deans, faculty, staff, alumni, and EMS students.

Andrew Paul (junior, Materials Science Engineering) had a student shadow him. He ended up not going to sleep until 2 a.m., yet despite having little rest, he arrived early Saturday morning to help with EMEX. More than 375 people came for the day-long events, and Paul was a guide for one of the most popular features of this year's EMEX:  a tour of the new Millennium Science Complex.

He gave a demonstration of the Molecular Beam Epitaxy machine and explained his participation in research on micromagnetic simulations. Afterwards, Sampath Kethavarapu (junior, Materials Science Engineering) led the group to the Materials Characterization Lab. He pointed out the methods that provide low acoustic and electromagnetic noise to create an optimal environment for imagery analysis techniques such as Scanning Electron Microscopy.
Throughout the day attendees had the opportunity to pick and choose among a variety of activities according to their interests and get more information on all five departments: Earth and Mineral Engineering, Geography, Geosciences, Materials Science Engineering, and Meteorology.

Kyle Spataro, a senior in high school, flew to State College, Pennsylvania from Braintree, Massachusetts to find out more about the Petroleum Natural Gas Engineering curriculum and to learn more about Penn State.

 "There's a whole lot more here than I realized!" he said at the end of the day.

Glenn De Angelis, a senior energy engineering student, put on his lucky SpongeBob arm bands that he wore last year when he successfully danced for the Penn State  IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and headed to the Bryce Jordan Center (BJC).

As the EMS THON overall chair this year, he was ready. Although EMS students who participated in THON are quick to point out it's a team effort, under the leadership of DeAngelis, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) raised a record $87, 601.82. This was the second year in a row EMS was first among general organizations.

The doors of the BJC opened at 1 p.m. on Friday, February 17, 2012.  "As we went through the human tunnel of hundreds of THON committee members lining the hallways, the excitement was unbelievable. I was holding my clip board and waving my sky blue bandana high in the air trying to keep us all together," said DeAngelis.

DeAngelis acknowledges this was a very different year than last year. Students grieved for the loss of Coach Paterno and for the young freshman, Courtney O'Bryan, killed in a car accident en route to a THON canning trip. One of the four canning trips had to be cancelled because of inclement weather, and although DeAngelis and the EMS THON students supported the difficult decision, they worried about the effect it would have on the final fundraising total. The students also fought hard not to let the negativity of the events of the past year dampen their belief in the positive power of people working together for a common goal. The money raised supports the Four Diamonds Fund to help pediatric cancer patients, families and researchers.

On Sunday, when the overall THON total was revealed and was 12 percent higher than last year's $9.6 million, it felt like a rainbow. Brian Bastian, who served as the EMS donor and alumni relations chair, credits the strength of the EMS executive committee (Marla Korpar, canning chair; Caitlyn McCloy, fundraising chair; and Annie Tamalavage, family relations chair) for much of the success of EMS.

EMS students commented that the close knit feeling of family among EMS students, EMS alumni, and the THON families provide a lot of motivation. Many alumni visit throughout the weekend and support the students throughout the year-long fundraising.

"The families' strength inspires us too," said Marla Korpar. This year the Michael Woods and Troy Brewer families were paired with EMS through the Adopt-A-Family program. Michael is in fifth grade, and his cancer is in remission; however, Troy passed away in 2006. Throughout the year, EMS students interact with the families.

"The 'why we THON' is different for every person, but ultimately it's for those we love and those we lost--For the Kids. Their stories, both tragic and triumphant, inspire me to be a better person," said Katie Lukens (meteorology) who danced this year along with Brian Bastian (meteorology), Annie Tamalavage (geosciences), Caitlyn McCloy (energy, business and finance), Greg Smith (geobiology), and Marla Korpar (environmental systems engineering).

Marla Korpar, a junior, got involved in THON as a freshman and found the last four hours of THON as a dancer this year were especially memorable.

"I should have been exhausted. 'What a Wonderful World' was playing and the BJC was filled to capacity. I looked out on the floor and up to the stands and saw so many people--it was a sea of bright colors--all standing arms around each other swaying back and forth. I felt love radiating from the BJC. I could see it with my eyes, but I could also feel it in my soul."

As DeAngelis left the BJC at the end of THON weekend, the sky in Happy Valley was Penn State blue. "It's important to remember that when people come together for good, something miraculous can happen," he said.  

Casino Night 2011

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Music, mingling, munching, and merriment of all sorts made Casino Night 2011 a fabulous success. Earth and Mineral Science students, staff, and faculty took the Friday before finals (December 9, 2011) to celebrate the season and their close-knit community with a gala at the Penn Stater. If you missed it this year, promise yourself you'll take advantage of this great EMS tradition next year. Check out the photos!

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Building a compostable toilet, making a mud hut, creating vermiculture tubs and learning about organic farming are just a few of the things 22 freshmen who participated in "Sustainability Research in Jamaica" offered by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) got to do this summer.

As part of Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP) led by Neil Brown, Research Associate for The Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering, and Development in Africa (AESEDA), and Kimberly Del Bright, Giles Writer-in-Residence for EMS, students studied sustainability and communication on campus. They also traveled to Jamaica for 12 days where they were challenged to PLAN for sustainable living, DO projects that reflect sustainable solutions, LIVE in sustainable ways, and develop materials to SHARE their experiences.

The LEAP pride was introduced to four sustainability principles adapted from "The Natural Step Framework," a comprehensive model that helps organizations integrate sustainable development into their strategic planning. Additionally, the students studied rhetoric and composition (English 15) to better understand and respond to arguments concerning sustainability. Evaluating the debates over environmental protection, economic development, and the costs to society were explored considering viewpoints of scientists, advisers, legislators, policy makers, reporters and others.

After four weeks of learning about sustainability and argument, students traveled to Jamaica for 12 days where they were challenged to PLAN for sustainable living, DO projects that reflect sustainable solutions, LIVE in sustainable ways, and develop material to SHARE their experiences.

Here's what they had to say about their experiences:

The guys were instantly turned into twelve-year-olds [because of the lizards and the attempts to catch them]. We tried all day to catch these speed demons, but their deceptive tactics are directly comparable to that of a leprechaun. Soon, Saia, a worker at Durga's Den showed us how to make lizard catchers out of the leaf of a tree. Then the fun began. We had catching competitions, bets, and lizard battles.
~Alex Strohl

We also hosted a toga party on [one of the evenings in Jamaica]. We invited all of our classmates and the teachers. We had a fantastic time dancing to the Backstreet Boys, Usher, and other random tunes, until we heard a knock on the door--it was Martha! She entered the room dressed in the finest sheets of them all. Martha went home with the prize of the night. She won "Best Overall" for her toga.
~Ashley Vargas

While in Jamaica, there were many locals who were obviously very different from us. It was fun to have conversations with them and learn their stories, but it was difficult to understand their language. The real Jamaican language is not nearly as easy to understand as the guys from Cool Runnings! Learning to deal with their crazy slang helped me become a better communicator. If I was not fully focused on what they were saying, I had no chance of interpreting their words...It made me more aware of the fact that not everyone understands what I say either.
~Kyle Will

One essay per week, many bug bites, and using a hole in the ground as a toilet, these words describe my summer at Penn State; to most the thought of even one of these things causes distress. However, I would not trade my LEAP experience for anything...Through my experience, I learned the value of the writing principles, teamwork, and awareness...and I will continue to apply these skills throughout my life.
~Jess Zaverukha

We learned to get along and work cohesively as a team. Catching lizards, rap battles, hours upon hours of "Would-You-Rather" games, and countless dance parties, all allowed us to bond, creating friendships that would follow us home to State College...I've learned that to succeed in college, independence, confidence, and self-motivation are key qualities. The initiatives I take to think ahead, plan, and take care of all tasks, big and small, are slowly but surely being fine-tuned.
~Megan Steward

My journals, specifically the ones comparing Jamaica to America, have taught me about different lenses...By constructing a résumé I have learned the importance of organization and how placement of key points can have a major impact on my reader.
~Connor Simpson

It is important to relate to your reader...For example, If I were writing to college students, trying to get them to stop drinking so much, I wouldn't start with saying that they are all morons...Instead, I might start off by pointing out that I, too, am a college student, and I like to blow off steam at parties. I learned that by establishing common ground with the reader...the argument is more credible.
~Kaitrin Rodgers

I participated in many projects, including how to build mud huts, composting toilets, beds (which we actually slept on), vermiculture tubs, and how to farm organically. I learned about growing crops, how to prevent soil erosion, and how to re-use materials that in the U.S. we may think of as trash.
~Jillian Rodgers

My professors worked hard to create synergy between their course and challenged me with new things to think about...When Professor Bright would talk about how to make an argument, Dr. Brown would discuss how that relates to sustainability. Through this back and forth relating of the material, it was easy to see how they connected and reinforced what we learned...They [also] encouraged us to be life-long learners.
~Greg Ritson

[Future LEAPERS] I hope you have as much of a meaningful experience as I have had. Coming into this class I despised writing and reading, but through my experiences with both her [Professor Bright's] class and Professor Brown's class, I have learned to enjoy writing and have even become more accustom to reading. Without this class, I would still be filling my ants in a puddle of lemonade.
~Tim Osusky

At Durga's Den, one of the activities I participated in was building a mud hut. This required a group of us to figure out how to work together in a team. In the building process, we had to take the bricks of mud made the day before, and stack them on the wall. At first, the six of us who were doing this worked individually, and we made little progress. Then we came together; we started working as a team...Working together as a group is much more exciting and makes the task more enjoyable.
~Stefan Moff

One of the main things focused on at Penn State is to make the experience of college your own. I want to set up a program through my college (Agricultural Sciences) and through Penn State, so that I can go to Haiti and study, furthering my education. I have witnessed the impact of learning through experience and the way it is more beneficial to me.
~Cara McDonald

To go from Senior Week to classes at Penn State, all in a matter of hours was nerve-wracking, but I had to remember what you always say Dad, "how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." At first, that elephant was hard to even look at, but now I can confidently say, that it tastes good. In other words, I've grown up a lot since I've been here. I'm no longer the nervous high school kid you dropped off who was aimless about what he was going to do for the next four years. I'm ready to command and conquer this place I now call home.
~Ryan McCaffrey

I just want to thank all of you [fellow LEAPERS] for making me feel like I am part of a family...I finally feel like a part of the Penn State Community. In a few short days, we will be ending summer session. After that, most of us will continue to East Halls, in the fall to go our separate ways pursuing our futures...I am grateful that my [Penn State] family started here with you.
~Nicole Marusco (a.k.a Grandma)

The average American child is instilled with the idea that contentment is equivalent to financial success: high-paying jobs, big houses, and abundant food. It is assumed that anyone who does not achieve this is unhappy...Spending time in [Jamaica] made me realize just how skewed my perception of the world really was. I found myself stuck by a new idea: sometimes it is those who have less in life that are the fortunate ones.

I will never forget my first visions of Jamaica. Watching out the windows of the crammed bus, I could not take my eyes off of the landscape which was washed in a bluish-grey from the tinted windows. Dilapidated shacks and half-built houses stood in stark contrast to the handful of mansions and resorts that dotted the mountainside. The roads were filled with old vehicles: mostly vans and trucks filled to overflowing with Jamaicans. Stray dogs ambled along the side of the streets looking for food. This was not the tourist destination that I had imagined.

One of the most memorable evenings of the trip occurred when a group of fisherman cooked us dinner on the beach. Herbie taught us about the different components of the meal. He stood in front of us in the shabby, dirt-stained clothes he had worn all week; half of his teeth were missing. He showed no shame. Instead, he seemed honored to have the opportunity to bestow his knowledge upon us.

Whenever I get caught up in the hectic pace of the United States, I will take a moment to think back to my time in Jamaica and what the people there taught me: happiness is not measured in monetary wealth but in our level of contentment with what we have.
~Molly Cain

Here's a student-made YouTube video of their experience.

If you'd like to learn more, contact me at, or Neil Brown at

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"One of the things that I read once that really rang true to me ... and it partly helped me get through the storm, is that hope is something that comes from the relationships that people have with one another," Michael Cowan, a theologian and administrator at Loyola University said today on National Public Radio as he reflected on the fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina. He makes a good point, and one that seems particularly relevant to the events of this week on our campus.

Attending classes and studying is your primary focus, and this is good. But it's also important to make connections and develop relationships, not only because it helps develop your résumé, but also because it nurtures your spirit. One of the ways to do this is to go to the Involvement Fair taking place this week in the HUB-Robeson Center. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet representatives from the nearly 200 clubs and organizations on campus. If you can't get to the Fair, check out the searchable directory listing all recognized student organizations at Penn State. Also, give particular attention to those in our own College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. (See the flyer above.) We have 16 organizations with something to join in MATSE, EME, GEOG, GEOSC, and METEO.

Keep hope alive. Join something today!


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On August 17 TOTEMS began. Purple-shirted upperclassmen, faculty, and staff greeted incoming freshmen with warm welcomes and offers to help the new students' cart their belongings to their dorms. The weather was ideal with bright sunshine and low humidity as students from all over the country and beyond spent the morning moving in.

Afterward it was on to the Ryan Family Student Center for a delicious lunch. Once again, the local favorite, Clem's BBQ, set out a spread of pork, chicken, vegan sausage, beans, potato salad, fruit, cold water and soda. Classrooms along the lower floor of Deike looked more like restaurant banquet rooms as groups socialized and gathered around the table clothed classroom tables.

At 2:00 p.m. students boarded buses for Raystown Lake in nearby Huntingdon County. Parents and family members waved as the blue Penn State busses drove the new recruits off for a fun-filled three days. TOTEMS is a unique program at EMS designed to welcome freshmen, give them a chance to meet faculty and staff in a casual setting, and help make new friends.

Just before the buses departed, some parents were reaching under their sunglasses dabbing tears. One mother whose voice was wavering turned to another and said, "Now that our jobs are done, I think we parents should get to go to a lake for some fun too!"

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Glassblowing and sand casting helped LEAP students ponder the structural properties of two important common materials, glass and aluminum. They weren't aware of some of the unique properties until they visited the material science labs in the College of Earth and Mineral Science over the last two weeks.

Two material scientists, Jenn Rygel and Jess Serra, took the students through a glass blowing experience that was part science and part art. They watched the smooth choreography between Jenn and Jess as one blew air through a tube and the other shaped the molten glass into a plate, a bowl, and a turtle. They also experienced the breaking of Prince Rupert's Drops--a tadpole shaped glass made by dripping hot molten glass into cold water that results in large compressive stresses on the exterior. Students discovered the fun of breaking the tail end of one of these drops, because once the stress is released, the drop disintegrates explosively. They also got to make their own colorful glass flowers.

sand casting 1.jpgThen it was onto lost foam sand casting. Dr. Amy Robinson met with the group to explain the major alloying elements added to aluminum, such as silicon, magnesium, and copper, and how they alter the properties of aluminum to make it stronger or flow more easily. She gave an overview of the three types of casting methods: graphite mold, green sand casting and lost foam sand casting. Then it was time for art to intersect with science again.

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Students used Styrofoam and carving tools to make their own molds. Some made molds of their initials, some chose off-the-wall designs, such as an abstract shape or a Sponge Bob plaque. Once the molds were completed, Dr. Kimmel and Dr. Robinson suited up in their protective garments for the casting. The hot molten aluminum was poured into protective fiber sleeves. A short cooling period followed, and after the "shake out," the final shapes were revealed. Students then visited the lathe and sandblasting machines to polish their masterpieces! This hands-on experience with processing, structure, properties, and performance of glass and aluminum made students appreciate how much there is to discover about the materials they interact with daily.

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