Union High School Grad to Study Volcanos in Hawaii

Union High School graduate Imani Guest Credits: Imani Guest

UNION, NJ – Imani Guest, a 2014 Union High School graduate, has been selected to work with one of the world’s top volcanologists during a summer internship in Hawaii.

Guest, a junior at Rider University majoring in geoscience with a minor in philosophy, will be studying with Dr. Michael Garcia at the University of Hawaii from June 5 to August 4.  Guest was one of 10 students selected out of 500 applicants to the federally funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program under the National Science Foundation.

Guest went to Livingston Elementary and Kawameeh Middle Schools.  At Union High, she attended AP classes, participated in the marching band and was in the school’s production of “Cats”.  "I was very involved in the marching band," said Guest.  "We went on several trips, including to Florida and Boston, for marching band competitions.  I loved being in the color guard during my years in high school."

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“Imani is an outstanding student, one of the best I've ever known in my 37 years at Rider,” says Dr. Jonathan Husch, the chair of the Department of Geological, Environmental and Marine Sciences (GEMS). “This should make excellent preparation for whatever Imani chooses to do for graduate school or her future career in the geosciences. The entire department could not be more proud or thrilled.”

Guest said she’s excited about the experience for several reasons.  “I am so eager to be working with Dr. Michael Garcia,” said Guest.  “He is one of the world’s leading volcanologists.  The chance to work with him is beyond exciting.”  Guest said she is also excited to be traveling to the big island of Hawaii to see a volcano.  “We will be taking a 2-3 day expedition to study an active volcano.”

Guest said she always knew she wanted to work in the sciences, but she wanted to find an area of study that wouldn’t confine her to a lab all day.  “Earth science has a large field component to it, collecting samples, mapping an area,” said Guest.  “It’s very hands on.  I really like that.”

Guest is a McNair Scholar (the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program), which aims to increase the number of doctoral applicants and terminal degrees attained by first-generation students and underrepresented groups in graduate school.  Guest said through this program she has been able to present current research, most recently in Atlanta, about climate change research.  “I’ve been working in a tree ring lab, where we analyze tree rings to see how growth of a tree responds to climate change and predict how it will respond to change in the future.”

“This NSF-REU in volcanology at the University of Hawaii will allow Imani to work with some of the best people in the discipline,” says Dr. Husch. “In particular, Dr. Michael Garcia is one of the top volcanologists in the world. You cannot ask for a better mentor or experience. The internship will also connect much of what Imani has already learned in the classroom with cutting-edge research.”

During the internship, Guest will be studying samples of foreign rock from Salt Lake Crater on the island of Oahu to determine the thermal history of the upper mantle in Honolulu.  She sees this internship as an opportunity to experience a possible field of study for her doctorate after completing her undergraduate degree.

“I could not have gotten where I am without the entire GEMS department and McNair faculty,” Guest says. “They’ve continued to push and support me throughout my time here at Rider, and I could not have imagined being where I am in life without them.”


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