Tori Cassady

Tori Cassady, Undergraduate student, Microbiology, Biochemistry

Studies volcanic eruptions

• Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Ingrid Ukstins, Associate Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Undergraduate degree; BS Microbiology & BA Biochemistry; graduation date is May 2020
• Please describe your research: I conduct research with Dr. Ingrid Ukstins in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences where we study volcanic eruptions. Our research is focused on a large volcanic field consisting of 53 individual volcanoes underlying the city of Auckland, New Zealand. We use crystals that form in magma to study how quickly magma rises in these volcanoes to form a better understanding of eruption timing and patterns.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? The volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field have the potential to erupt unpredictably and with little warning. Our research will clarify the timing of magma ascension in these volcanoes, informing public safety and evacuation planning for Auckland as well as other cities in close proximity to volcanic fields. We will also learn more about the magma “plumbing systems” that feed these volcanoes, which remain poorly understood.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was able to participate in research starting in my first semester of my freshman year of undergrad. I also switched laboratories during my junior year fairly easily and have continued my research into my senior year.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? My research has allowed me to broaden my education and transcend the typical “scientific boundaries” usually placed around an undergraduate degree (for example, studying only biochemistry without studying how biochemistry is related to physics or our environmental/geological surroundings). I have gained a broader view of how life interacts with our planet by studying Microbiology and Biochemistry while conducting research in planetary geology, which has given me a much more holistic education than if I never became involved in research.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I would like to pursue a PhD in Geomicrobiology focusing on Astrobiology, and my long-term goal is to become a research scientist.

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