EHS grad wins U. Idaho's Outstanding Undergraduate Research award
May 17, 2012 (The Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
An Enterprise High School graduate has distinguished herself among her peers at the University of Idaho.
Last week, Jessy Osterloh received the school's Outstanding Undergraduate Research award.
Osterloh, an environmental studies major, did her senior thesis research on the geothermal potential of the Snake River plain in Southern Idaho.
There's an incredible amount of heat under the earth's surface in the interior West, providing hot springs and possibly geothermal energy opportunities, though the work has a number of useful applications.
Osterloh said the Snake River Plain probably formed by the Yellowstone hot spot and there's a lot of residual heat under the plain.
For her research she said she took well and bore hole temperatures and combined that information with other data indicative of recent volcanism -- thermal systems with relatively young rocks and faults. She then overlaid maps to find out what the geothermal potential of the area is.
She said, "I used five sites across the Snake River Plain that I recommended for further exploration well drilling and soil sampling."
Satellite imagery shows heat flow of certain rocks and she said these are good spots to continue the research.
Osterloh said she found it easy to get involved in undergraduate research at University of Idaho.
"If you are interested in research, one in three professors will be able to find a place for you," said Osterloh.
While taking a class with her mentor, Jerry Fairley, he approached her with the possibility of taking a graduate-level class. While in the class, one of the graduate students asked her to help with research for last year's Geothermal Student Competition, sponsored by the Department of Energy, doing a study of the Rio Grande Rift Valley of Colorado and New Mexico. The team placed third.
This past fall, said Osterloh, she asked Fairley about research opportunities and he suggested the Snake River Plain study, which was similar to the work she did on the Rio Grande Rift Valley.
"It just happened that the national geothermal study competition chose the Snake River as a study area, as well," said Osterloh.
Again, Fairley put Osterloh with two grad students for the project. A couple of the other members of the team, both graduate students, are going to use soil sampling and analysis of satellite imagery on the sites that her study targeted. She said she will continue her involvement with the research until she graduates in December.
Osterloh said she is looking at graduate school opportunities for the fall of 2013 and wants to focus on hydrogeology.
She said, "I discovered I liked geology and the mathematical modeling associated with ground water flow."
She said one application for geothermal research is looking for oil stored in fractures of rocks.
"You can find where oil might be and drill. To get it out you need to know about the underground characteristics of the site and the temperatures," said Osterloh.
She said she has an interest in alternative energy and hopes to eventually pursue a career in it. Despite her accomplishments and goals, the end of her undergraduate career is bittersweet.
"Idaho is a great school and Moscow is a great town, I'm going to be sad to leave," said Osterloh.
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