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Christina Zerda

Earth Sciences; Undergraduate Research

Christina Zerda's research topic was "Magma Plumbing and Mid-Ocean Ridge Dynamics" and she was advised by Dr. Michael Barton, Earth sciences.

How would you briefly describe your research to someone who is not familiar with your field of study?
My work focuses on mid-ocean ridges which can be found throughout every ocean on Earth. We are interested in how the magma, that later becomes the ocean floor, is stored in the subsurface. The entire dynamics of that system are complex and will help us better understand plate tectonics and how these features work.

How/why did you select this topic?
We are required to complete a senior thesis in order to earn a BS in Earth Sciences. I was interested in beginning my thesis as early as my sophomore year. Prior to working with my faculty advisor, Dr. Barton, I had no real interest in or knowledge of the dynamics of ocean ridges or igneous petrology in general.  However, while enrolled in his class I wrote a paper related to mid-ocean ridge processes. This sparked my interest in this area of research and helped me to become better acquainted with this professor.

How did you identify a faculty mentor?
Within our department, most faculty members are very open about engaging undergraduate students. They work to connect students with their research projects so that we’re able to gain research experience. At the time I took Dr. Barton’s class, he was identifying students who were interested in investigating specific mid-ocean ridge segments. I was in the peculiar situation of not actively seeking a mentor, but was able to connect via a class.

How has your major program and your time at Ohio State prepared you for this research?
The extensive math and science we are required to take as part of my major, as well as the GEC requirements, prepared me for the data analysis required by my project. Additionally, the flexibility of the upper-level major requirements allowed me to take more classes in my area of research. This gave me a broader background from which to frame my thesis.

What have you learned from the experience that will be valuable to you in the future?
A very valuable lesson that I have learned is commitment. I began this project during winter quarter of 2011 and worked on it every succeeding term leading up to a handsome thesis. I could have tried multiple smaller projects, or I could have ended the research when I felt it was decently explored. However, I knew that I would need to follow the research all the way through to completion in order to produce the best thesis. Learning to persevere, even when there are obstacles or disappointments, was an invaluable lesson. This experience will benefit me in the future regardless of my career path.

What most surprised you during the research process or what did you most enjoy about the experience?
What surprised me the most and still continues to surprise me is the number of questions that pop up as I continue my project. While we started with a very broad approach, each time we looked at the data more and more peculiar things would arise. These would lead to more questions. It almost never seemed to end! It can be exasperating to find more questions rather than an answer. However, it is just as exciting!

What impact did/do you hope to make through your research?
The main impact I hope to have with my research is to show that interesting topics can be found anywhere and that anything, no matter how well we believe we understand it, can be further explored.

Do you plan to continue with this research in the future?
I plan to attend graduate school and hope that I will be able to either continue this research or conduct related research.

What advice would you give students about getting involved in research?
I would advise students to not be afraid of research. This applies to all aspects of research from emailing 15 professors and hoping to get a good response rate, to tackling an unfamiliar topic. You cannot be afraid of talking to new people, feeling as if you do not know enough before you begin, or wondering if your research will result in a good project. Research is a time of exploration. Being fearless is a welcomed trait.