Senior geology major Quin Lenz came to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh as an undecided major, took one geology course and he said he knew his passion was geology.
For Lenz, it was getting involved in fieldwork, talking to his professors and getting involved in a research project that cemented his love for geology.
“I love the hands-on fieldwork, and the UW Oshkosh Geology Department offers a lot of trips like ones I’ve taken to Utah, Montana, Hawaii and Bermuda,” Lenz said. “It shows you how to work in the field, make observations, take good notes and gain experience in other aspects.”
For Lenz, the fieldwork allows him to learn first-hand what it takes be to in the geology field, and his research adviser Jennifer Wenner said fieldwork is essential to geological research.
“Fieldwork gives students context for understanding the geological question at hand and reinforces all the exciting yet confusing aspects of scientific research,” Wenner said. “Fieldwork presents a rich environment for student learning at all levels and helps students to synthesize material they may have learned in class.
“You can learn in the classroom, but in the field it’s not that clean cut,” Lenz said. “You make observations and a hypothesis and take measurements and use data.”
From his fieldwork experiences, Lenz took the data back to labs at UW Oshkosh to determine if his hypothesis was correct. His love for research didn’t end with his classes—Lenz also presented his research project at the 2014 Celebration of Scholarship.
“For my research ‘Using Olivine-Hosted Spinels to Determine the Heterogeneity of the Mantle Beneath the Southern Cascades’ I submitted a grant proposal,” Lenz said. “I learned how to write a grant, what it’s like to have a grant proposal accepted and presented my research at the Celebration of Scholarship in addition to advancing my research skills.”
Lenz’s research, which identifies minerals to see if the source is from the same volcano, helped him not only gain knowledge in the geology field, but also improved his writing skills and verbal communication skills when explaining his research to others.
“I leaned on my mentor, Geology Professor Jennifer Wenner, for a lot of guidance,” Lenz said. “I would present one idea and she would give me a different perspective, helping me look deeper at my research.”
Lenz and Wenner have worked together for nearly two years, shifting from Wenner acting as a guide helping Lenz through his research and data to Lenz gaining confidence to explore new scientific questions coming from his research.
“The exploration of an important geologic question broadens a student’s mind: opening them to new and creative ideas, teaching them how to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity and allowing them to logically work through a problem,” Wenner said. “Ultimately, the experience prepares and gives students a competitive edge when applying for grad schools and jobs.”
Wenner describes Lenz as one of the most positive and enthusiastic individuals she has ever worked with, and has a talent for grant writing, he received funding from five of six grants he has applied for.