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How to prepare for grad school: Do a research internship

Cody Mason, in Northern New Mexico along the Rio Grande Rift during last summer's Geology field camp.

"My work this summer could firm up my desire to continue with field-based geology, or it might push me toward lab-based research such as geochronology. Whatever happens, I’m sure my internship will be a huge stepping stone for my career in geosciences."

--Geology graduate Cody Mason

This summer, Cody Mason will be exploring his options while sharpening his professional skills by doing geologic mapping for the United States Geologic Survey in the geologic region known as the northern Rio Grande Rift. "It essentially consists of the area from Taos, New Mexico, all the way north to around Leadville, Colorado," Mason explains. "It is some of the most beautiful country around."

That's a valuable opportunity for someone who just earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Geology in April. Mason, from Durango, Colorado, is getting this chance to work alongside professional geologists in the USGS thanks to an internship award from the federal agency.

In April, Mason and fellow 2011 Geology graduate Sabina Kraushaar won internships with the National Association of Geoscience Teachers-U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Summer Field Training Program, the nation's longest continuously running internship program in the earth sciences. More than 2,000 students have participated in the program over its 46-year history, with many having gone on to distinguished careers in academia and industry, and with the USGS and other agencies.

"The program offers a first-rate professional experience for students, which can really jump-start their careers and potentially influence their future career path," says Geosciences Professor Ray Kenny. "It's an excellent and well-respected experiential program that provides the highest possible training and experience."

Mason's and Kraushaar's awards also mark the first time that Fort Lewis students have been selected for this prestigious opportunity to take an active role in professional research. Only one other student from a Colorado school was chosen for this year's internships.

Sabina (middle) and fellow classmates during a Research Experience for
Undergraduates in Yellowstone National Park.

Local geology summer field camp directors, like Kenny, nominate students for the internships. Nominated students apply by sending a resume, a letter of interest, and transcripts to the USGS. Candidates are then matched by their course work, skill and interest with projects, and the listing of candidates and their academic information are sent to USGS scientists for review, interviews, and selection. The USGS scientist with whom the intern will work makes the final intern selection.

"I will be in Menlo Park, California, which is just south of San Francisco, doing geophysical surveys looking for groundwater and geothermal aquifers, as well as natural hazards monitoring," says Kraushaar, also from Durango. "I am hoping to learn some new skills, as well as some more geology. And I will be working with senior geologists all summer, so hopefully they will also pass on some wisdom."

And those skills, knowledge, and wisdom will be immediately useful, Kraushaar adds. "I am going to get my Master's at University of Nevada in Reno next year, and my research project will be dealing with geothermal energy exploration. So this will be great experience to have."

Visit the Geosciences website here: []

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