Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences,
The University of British Columbia

Current News

Spring Research Internships at PCIGR

March 2016 — Vancouver

PCIGR recently partnered with STEM Fellowship, a federal non-profit organization that connects and empowers young innovators in the sciences.  The Spring Research Internship Program is designed to facilitate passion for multidisciplinary scientific inquiry and help high school students interested in research develop the necessary skills to realize this goal. In this inaugural year, competition was strong, with over 45 motivated and enthusiastic students vying for a spot in the program.


PCIGR hosted 6 high school interns over two weeks during Spring Break (March 14-24, 2016).  The grade 11 and 12 students came from Gladstone, Lord Byng and Sir Winston Churchill secondary schools in Vancouver.  The interns were mentored by PCIGR graduate students and MAGNET trainees Catherine Armstrong, Rhy McMillan and Nichole Moerhuis.

In Catherine’s project on Hawaiian volcanism, the students looked at basaltic rocks and thin sections under the microscope to identify minerals, textures and alteration.  They also analyzed whole-rock major element data, leached rock powders in the clean lab, and prepared samples for XRD.  At the end of the week, the interns presented their research on a “big picture” question about ocean island basalts.


Rhy introduced his interns to archaeology and paleoanthropology though a study on the geochemistry of bones from Scladina Cave, Belgium.  After cutting the bones, the students set to work making, sanding and photographing pucks.  They spent the last day on the microscopes looking at bone histology as well as reducing and analyzing laser ablation trace element data.


During Nichole’s week, the students determined the age of a granophyric sill that cross-cuts the Skaergaard Intrusion, East Greenland.  They experienced every stage of processing and analysis required to turn a hand sample into a concentrated mineral separate, and then establish the crystallization age.  This included mechanical and magnetic separation, zircon picking and puck preparation, SEM and LA-ICP-MS analysis, and finally data reduction.

PCIGR was pleased to participate in this program and support the training and mentorship of young scientists in geochemistry, which is an important part of our philosophy.  Both the mentors and interns learned and benefited significantly from this experience.  We look forward to seeing this initiative develop and grow over the coming years!