Pamela Iraheta Recalls Summer Cox Internship

Monday, September 12, 2016

Incomplete mineral display created by Paula Piilonen and Pamela Iraheta. The complete set-up will be displayed in the OLMC Gem Show September 24 and 25, 2016.

Incomplete mineral display created by Paula Piilonen and Pamela Iraheta. The complete set-up will be displayed at the OLMC Gem and Mineral Show September 24 and 25, 2016.

 

By Pamela Iraheta, 
Current 3rd year Earth Sciences student 

This summer, I was lucky enough to work in the Mineralogy Department in the Research and Collections Division of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Every year, a geology student from Carleton University is awarded the Cox Internship, which allows them to work as an intern with the Mineralogists of the Museum’s Collection. I worked under the supervision of Research Scientists Paula Piilonen and Scott Ercit. This scholarship provided an unbelievable learning opportunity, in which I got to work closely with top quality specimens and got introduced to incredible research projects.

I was assigned a summer-long project focusing on properly identifying the specimens of the Spinel Group. Spinels are cubic oxide minerals with the general chemical formula AE2O4; the group is further subdivided into spinel, magnetite, and chromite series depending on whether the E site is filled by aluminum, ferric iron, or chromium respectively. I sampled 253 mineral specimens. Analysis then consisted of mounting and polishing the specimens for examination with a Scanning Electron Microscope and an Electron Microprobe. The data collected allows us to determine the chemistry of each specimen and a mineral species name can be derived.

Additionally, I learned the specifics as to how a Museum’s mineral collection is curated, from receiving a sample from the field to incorporating it into the collection. I was able to help Paula put together a mineral display which travelled to Rochester, Bancroft, and will be displayed in the OLMC Gem Show in Ottawa in September. I also had the amazing opportunity to work with the Geological Survey of Canada in the transferring of the National Meteorite Collection, which is being loaned to the Museum of Nature.

I recently began working with gem-bearing mantle xenoliths from Pailin, Cambodia. Mantle xenoliths are pieces of the mantle that are found but not derived in igneous rocks, such as alkaline basalts. They are important as they provide insights and further the understanding of the Earth’s mantle. This is an ongoing project but we are excited for the outcome of this research.

I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with the Museum of Nature. I gained invaluable experience from an amazing group of people.

Fluorite sample from Mexico displaying a beautiful cubic crystal habit

Fluorite sample from Mexico displaying a beautiful cubic crystal habit

 

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During the last academic year, the department awarded two summer Cox Internships to high-achieving students. The first was in Mineralogy at the research facilities of the Canadian Museum of Nature. The second was in Gemology at the Geological Survey of Canada. Both positions were paid. Second and third year undergraduates are encouraged to check their Carleton e-mail account for information on how to apply for these opportunities in the spring.