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Geoscience Student Wins National Research Award

May 11, 2016

Travis Sparks, a geoscience major at Angelo State University, has received a 2016 GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research from the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) – Geosciences Division.

Travis Sparks presented his research at the 2016 annual meeting of the Southwest Section, American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).Travis Sparks presented his research at the 2016 annual meeting of the Southwest Section, American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).A senior from Kingsland, Sparks was nominated for the award by Dr. Heather Lehto of the ASU geosciences faculty for his research project titled “New Mapping of Late Paleozoic Faults and Local Precambrian Aquifers, Llano Uplift.” He was awarded an ASU Undergraduate Faculty-Mentored Research Grant to fund his research, and his faculty advisor is Dr. Joseph Satterfield, professor of geology. 

For his project, Sparks conducted detailed mapping of structures within the Llano uplift in Central Texas, where he is constructing a grid of cross sections across folded and faulted Paleozoic strata. He obtained permission on his own to map the area, which covers three ranches and has not been seen by a geologist since the 1940s.  

Dr. Heather LehtoDr. Heather LehtoIn her nomination letter for Sparks, Lehto wrote, “Travis is one of the best field geologists to pass through ASU. He is incredibly observant in the field and is always asking questions and offering hypotheses on his feet. His enthusiasm for geology is evident during any conversation and is very infectious. It is easy to see that Travis loves geology and has a true talent for recognizing and interpreting geologic relations.” 

Sparks recently presented his research at the annual meeting of the Southwest Section, American Association of Petroleum Geologists in Abilene and co-authored a paper for that organization’s 2016 field trip guidebook. He is a member of ASU’s Geologic Exhibition Organization student group and the Sigma Gamma Epsilon national earth science honor society.   

Sparks will graduate with his ASU bachelor’s degree on May 14 and has already been accepted and awarded a teaching assistantship in Texas Tech University’s Master of Science in geosciences graduate program. 

This marks the second straight year an ASU student has received a GeoCUR Award. Last year the award went to Darren Seidel of Sanderson, who is now a graduate student at Purdue University. 

The Council on Undergraduate Research was founded in 1978, and its mission is to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship in all academic disciplines. Based in Washington, D.C., its members include nearly 10,000 individuals and more than 650 colleges and universities, including ASU. The Geosciences Division was founded in 1986.