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Incoming UW Geology Grad Student Receives NSF Fellowship

May 13, 2015
woman standing outside with mountains in background
Incoming UW graduate student Lindsay Arvin, here on a geology field course in Spain, received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

An opportunity to research how geology affects the growth of the world’s biggest trees attracted Lindsay Arvin to graduate studies in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Geology and Geophysics.

She will conduct such research as a recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, one of 2,000 individuals -- three at UW -- selected from among 16,500 applicants in 2015. The fellowships support graduate studies for students “based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering,” according to an NSF media release.

Arvin, originally from Chicago, recently received her bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from the University of Southern California (USC). She will begin her UW studies this fall under Associate Professor Cliff Riebe, with plans to earn a Ph.D. in geology in five years.

Riebe has been researching how bedrock influences forests and landscape evolution in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. He and his students, last year, published groundbreaking research concluding that bedrock composition is just as important as climate in influencing the growth of plants, including the Giant Sequoia, the largest trees on Earth.

“Now, the challenge is getting at what’s behind all the patterns they recognized,” Arvin says. “Trying to find out what makes the conditions right for those trees to grow is just inherently interesting.”

Arvin learned about Riebe’s research from one of her USC professors and decided to apply for graduate school in UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. Competition for the department’s graduate openings is tight, and Riebe says Arvin stood out because of her enthusiasm for the work his group has been doing.

“Lindsay has the interest and background in all the right areas to really help us advance the research we have been doing,” Riebe says. “I was thrilled that she had decided to come work with us, and that was before I heard about the NSF fellowship.”

Having visited UW in February, Arvin says she’s looking forward to getting started this fall. The NSF fellowship will give her “a lot of freedom and opportunity” in Riebe’s research program, she says.

“As an undergraduate without any experience in the project yet, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Arvin says of the fellowship. “It’s very exciting.”

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