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A&S Students Form First Cohort of Kentucky Geological Survey Paul Edwin Potter Interns

By Elizabeth Chapin

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 24, 2022) — The first cohort of interns in a new Kentucky Geological Survey program are spending their summers contributing to statewide research projects focused on geologic resources, environmental issues and natural hazards affecting Kentucky.

The new Paul Edwin Potter Internship Program is giving University of Kentucky students interested in geoscience research the opportunity to engage in a hands-on research project for 10 weeks throughout the summer. Although the program was limited to UK students during its first year, it will be expanded in future years to include students from other universities.

Supported by a gift from the late Paul Edwin Potter, a former professor of geology at the University of Cincinnati, the program aims to expand and enrich geoscience training opportunities for students. 

Each intern is paired with a survey expert who is giving them individualized mentorship and guidance as they collaborate on a research project. Projects in the 2022 program focus on such topics as geologic hazards, critical minerals and environmental justice. The program will culminate in presentations at the Paul Edwin Potter Internship showcase July 29.

“Beyond contributing to research projects, our interns participate in weekly professional development discussions,” said Elizabeth Adams, who serves as coordinator for the program. “We hope they will leave the program with a better understanding of career opportunities and more confidence in their professional abilities."

The weekly activities include field experiences, classes to develop technical skills and sessions focused on career planning, networking and interview preparation.

Meet the six 2022 interns — all students from the College of Arts and Sciences — and learn more about their summer projects:

  • Dilni Abeyrathne, an undergraduate in the Department of Geography and Department of International Studies, is working with KGS Director Bill Haneberg on a project to map landslides associated with mountaintop removal coal mining and their potential effects on environmental justice issues in Kentucky.
  • Alex Arimes, an undergraduate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is working with landslide geologist Matt Crawford. They are using the KGS unmanned aerial vehicle and geographic information system techniques to evaluate past landslide activity in eastern Kentucky.
  • Russel Rogers, a graduate student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is working with seismologist Seth Carpenter. They are using new instrumentation to investigate the effects of near-surface sediments on seismic waves in the New Madrid seismic zone.
  • Ellie Stevens, an undergraduate in the Department of Geography, is working with KGS hydrogeologist Junfeng Zhu to identify sinkholes from lidar elevation data with assistance from a machine learning model.
  • Alex Thomas, a graduate student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is working with Haneberg and KGS geological mapping section head Drew Andrews. They are using a drone-based gamma spectrometer to develop methods for mapping radon gas potential in Kentucky soils.
  • Zachary Walton, a 2022 graduate from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is working with geologist Gina Lukoczki, in the KGS fluid inclusion lab, where he is helping with an ongoing KGS critical mineral research project.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.