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Published October 14, 2022
Michael Cheadle, a professor in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, spent two weeks in September teaching young female scientists in India about geology and granites.
Cheadle was one of a dozen professors from around the world invited to teach an 11-day workshop to 23 Indian college graduate and postdoctoral students -- 19 women, four men -- who came from various universities across India. The lecture/lab course was taught at Kumaun University in Nainital, Uttarakhand, India, and fieldwork took place in the Lesser Himalayas.
“This was all part of an initiative to teach graduate students in developing countries, with the objective of both bringing in expertise to help train/teach Indian students and to foster links between Indian scientists and those from other countries,” Cheadle says.
A national training program of young scientists from all over India has started at the Department of Geology at Kumaun University. Young women scientists from various renowned institutions of the country participated in the event, which was organized by Professor Santosh Kumar and funded in collaboration with the government of India’s Department of Science and Technology.
The program, titled “Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing,” sponsored an advanced training workshop on “Granites and Related Rocks” Sept. 5-15. Students participated in lectures and labs for the first week before taking a four-day field trip to the Lesser Himalayas.
“I was invited because of my expertise in understanding the textures of rocks -- in other words, the arrangement and shape of the crystals in the rocks -- which can inform about how the rocks formed,” Cheadle explains. “The other professors were experts on other aspects of granites, including chemistry, determining the age of the granites and how granites are formed.”
Granites are the rocks that form the uppermost part of continental crust and make up a lot of the ground we walk on, Cheadle says. For example, Vedauwoo Recreation Area is made of granitic rocks, as is most of the upper part of Wyoming’s crust.
“So, if we want to explain how the Earth’s crust is made, then we need to understand how granites form. The objective of the workshop was to teach Indian students the concepts and tools to understand granites,” he says. “Additionally, if we want to comprehend explosive volcanoes and their hazards, then one avenue is to study granites, because they likely form in a magma chamber below the volcano.”
During his time at Kumaun University, Cheadle taught two 90-minute lectures, ran an afternoon lab and continued teaching during the field trip.
“The whole concept was to teach a program that covered all of the modern and cutting-edge skills involved in the study of granites,” Cheadle says. “We hoped that the students would both learn new skills and information beyond the knowledge they already had; and learn/take away computer programs that the participants had developed, which help with the study of granites and develop the confidence and belief to operate in a male-dominated field. A big part of the objective was to inspire and enthuse young Indian scientists so that they can succeed in international science.”
Cheadle says the students he taught are all working in various granite and/or metamorphic field areas all across India. Most are working on pre-Cambrian (more than 542 million years old) terranes and attempting to understand their origin and evolution. Some are working in the Dharwar Craton, a chunk of continental crust located in southern India. The Dharwar Craton formed between 3.6 billion and 2.5 billion years ago and is considered the oldest part of India.
“In many respects, these terranes are similar to the rocks that make up the core of the crust of Wyoming,” Cheadle says.
The workshop evolved as a response to a need identified during the last Hutton Symposium on granites and related rocks: to give students from developing countries a chance to be exposed to modern granite science. The Hutton Symposium, named after James Hutton, a famous Scottish geologist, first took place in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1987. Since then, the Hutton Symposium has become a classic meeting on granite geology. Every four years, this event brings together leading scientists in granite geology and highlights the research trends in this field. The last symposium was in China in 2019, with the next scheduled in Italy in 2023.
This marked the first visit to India for Cheadle, a well-heeled researcher. He says he gained a better understanding of the country, its culture and its people. He also did a little sightseeing, taking in the fabled Taj Mahal and the High Himalayas. He also made a stop at Gautam Buddha University, located in Uttar Pradesh, India, where he met with Professor Ravindra Kumar Sinha, the vice chancellor at that university. The vice chancellor position there is similar to the position of president at UW, Cheadle says.
Additionally, he says teaching provided an opportunity to build new relationships between faculty and students in India and UW, and he forged one key relationship for future collaboration.
“I’m looking forward to collaborating with Dr. Roberto Visalli, from the University of Catania in Sicily,” Cheadle says. “He’s a young, future-generation geoscientist who also is studying rock textures.”