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Bright Star Scholars Program

Hailey Dietz video

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Haley Dietz, Class of 2022,
Earth Science

About my project

I looked at pre-Cambrian granite – it’s named the Tajo granite - that’s located in Socorro County, New Mexico in the Quebradas region. I was looking at this granite to try to find rare earth elements and uranium.

Because I was able to work on the Tajo granite I gained a lot of experience, especially as an undergraduate. The Tajo granite has about 1500 feet of drill cores stored at the (NMBGMR) Core Library, and during COVID, when a bunch of research was shut down because we weren’t sure about funding and collaborations, I was able to still work through the Bright Star Scholarship. I went and looked at this drill core and logged it and that formed the basis of my project, especially with samples. I collected samples for geochemistry and petrography work and I was able to use that and make a research project to present at the NMT Student Research Symposium. I did a poster for the New Mexico Geological Society, and I’m publishing a paper on it, to appear in the New Mexico Geological Fall Field Conference Guidebook.

As an undergraduate, I gained quite a bit of experience that normally a graduate student receives working on a master’s. I analyzed geochemistry, I analyzed petrography, and now I have experience writing grants as well as publishing research.

How being a Bright Star Scholar has affected my future

I think it’s already impacting my future because I’m a senior and I’m looking to go into a Master’s degree program. Through working with Dr. Virginia McLemore, and through Bright Star Scholars funding, I have developed a real interest and passion for working with critical elements, especially rare earths. That’s what I’m trying to focus my master’s project on. I’m really glad that I’ve gotten the experience that I have through working with the Tajo granite and the different projects with Dr. McLemore, because now I can apply that to looking for graduate schools. It looks pretty good on a resume, especially because I’ll be published as an undergraduate and I already have two-and-a-half years of experience.

My biggest accomplishment as a Bright Star Scholar

My biggest accomplishment is being published. It is great to have my name on a publication with research that I did, and I wrote most of the publication, as well. I’m very excited about that. I have always wanted to become a published author, but I never entirely thought it would be in a research journal until now.

What being a Bright Star Scholar means to me

The funding that’s available through the Bright Star Scholars program gave me experience that I likely wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’m here at college to learn, but I also want to explore my passions and what I’m interested in so I can apply those in the future. I got to work with igneous rocks and I found out that I love them. I got to analyze different deposits for critical elements and I found out that I love that too. I’ve had this experience and I enjoyed it, and now I want to apply what I’ve learned and what I’ve done in the future.

Why support for undergraduate research is important

It’s so easy to get caught up in the little things and not worry about the bigger picture. Alumni support helps us keep track of that bigger picture. We’re here to get an education and we’re here to graduate, but we’re also here to apply what we’ve learned in the future. The support that alumni give us is what helps us do that.

Read Haley's 2021 NM Geological Society abstract and award-winning 2021 NM Geological Society poster