Nikita Avdievitch ’13 (New York City) is a geology major who hopes to eventually attend graduate school in that academic area. Following is a first-person account of his experience doing summer research in Northeastern China with geology professor John Craddock.
When I declared my major at Macalester, I chose geology for what seemed to me an exciting combination of science and adventure. I saw it as a pathway to further understand the physical world while maintaining the fantasy of having the limitless outdoors as my laboratory. The prospect that some of these research locales could be on the other side of the planet added to the appeal.
Last summer, just before the start of my senior year, I experienced firsthand what it’s like to work on a geologic project far from home. I accompanied my Structural Geology professor John Craddock as a research assistant on a field trip to a metamorphic core complex in Northeastern China. My assistantship was paid for through a grant; together we wrote the proposal to secure the funding.
I spent the month of June in the field helping Professor Craddock and his colleague, Junlai Liu from The China University of Geosciences, as well as working with local graduate students. We divided our time between various parts of the Liaodong Peninsula in Northeastern China, driving across the region in search of geologic outcrops that could help tell the story of the complex of rocks we were studying. Professor Craddock and I looked for twinned calcite samples in order to run stress and strain analyses and ultimately better understand the history of regional geologic development. While these samples occasionally proved elusive, the sheer excitement of exploring the geology of another country and the plethora of parallel projects that Professor Liu and his students were working on kept things interesting.
Unsurprisingly, some of the most profound experiences I had were simply developing good relationships with our hosts and colleagues. While I always understood the importance of good collaboration in science, I learned in China just how great a role communication and friendliness play. Everyone on the team made this part easy. We spent our downtime marveling over cultural differences, comparing educational experiences, and despite the overall language barrier, we always found a common language in which to “nerd out” about our shared passion for rocks.