Earth & Environmental Sciences students win Highly Commended recognition at Undergraduate Awards 2016

Two of our recent graduates have been Highly Commended on their submissions to the Undergraduate Awards for 2016. The two students submitted their research dissertation projects which are the culmination of research conducted over 12 months. Both students are off to do PhD -level research now, one at the University of Glasgow and one at the Pennsylvania State University in the US. We wish them good luck and a big WELL DONE!


Lucy McKay

lucy_awardI was awarded as a Highly Commended Entrant in the Undergraduate Awards 2016 programme for my MGeol research dissertation entitled “The Presence and Distribution of Salts as a Palaeoprecipitation Proxy in Atacama Soils”. By using a combination of geochemistry and numerical modelling this research investigated the presence and distribution of atmospherically-derived soluble salts at Earth’s most arid extreme. The aim was to quantify precipitation in the Atacama Desert during the Quaternary and also help identify subregions of the desert where it hasn’t rained. Importantly, this research extended previously published studies to regions of much lower rainfall, and reported the largest ever near-surface concentrations of atmospherically-derived soluble salts in Earth’s soils. This was a testing yet rewarding project, and this award would not have been possible without the help of my supervisor, Mark Claire.





Kirsty McKenzie

kirsty_awardI am honoured to be acknowledged as a Highly Commended Entrant of the Undergraduate Awards 2016 for my undergraduate research dissertation project entitled “Development of layering in the granites: a case study from the Carna Pluton, Connemara, Ireland”.  This research investigated the mechanisms responsible for the development of magmatic layering in the Carna Pluton, using a combination of field work, petrographic analysis, Crystal Size Distributions and Electron Probe Micro-Analysis. Results have implications for the understanding of both the dynamic processes operating in silica-rich magma chambers, and the crystallisation of a large proportion of Earth’s economic mineral deposits (hosted in magmatic layering). The results suggest that though magmatic layering and associated features in the Carna Pluton appear strikingly similar to those found in mafic/ultramafic intrusions and sedimentary rocks, they are unlikely a product of the same processes (e.g. gravitational settling accompanied by magmatic currents), which is reflected in the high viscosities associated with silica-rich magmas. This project was both challenging and rewarding, and I would like to thank my supervisor Will McCarthy and former PhD student Emma Hunt for their support throughout.