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Staryl Glynn: Student Discovers Path to Graduate School in Ancient Caves



Photo courtesy of Staryl Glynn

Staryl Glynn: Student Discovers Path to Graduate School in Ancient Caves

While in a geology class taught by Ashish Sinha, returning student Staryl Glynn became fascinated by his research on climate patterns. When he mentioned that climate systems of the past could be deciphered by studying rock specimens, she wanted to know more.

“I was in his class when he held up a rock and told the class that you could tell the climates of the past by examining it,” she remembers. “I’ve always loved [the study of] the climate; it’s so dynamic, it’s always changing. I was very interested to learn about the climates of the past and how you could go back hundreds of thousands of years by using a stalagmite.”

Staryl Glynn: Student Discovers Path to Graduate School in Ancient CavesTwo years later, with an internship and several presentations at international conferences under her belt, Glynn is working with Sinha on his global project to uncover monsoon patterns in India while carving a path for herself in the world of scientific research.

Her curiosity led her to accompany Sinha into caves in the Sierra Nevada mountains to study stalagmites (cave deposits that grow from the ground up). Although Glynn found the prospect of crawling around in a dark, damp cave to be frightening at first, she overcame her fear in light of a task much more daunting.

“What I’m doing now is jumping through the hoops to get into graduate school,” she laughs. “I have to take a yearlong sequence of chemistry, physics, that’s calculus-based physics, and calculus, and I don’t have a background in any of that. I’m seeing that I need to seek out help, attend study groups and tutoring.”

Two years ago, Glynn received the Sally Casanova California Pre-Doctoral award, which supports the doctoral aspirations of upper division or graduate students in the California State University system, specifically individuals from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. The $3,000 scholarship enabled her to attend national conferences, serve a summer internship with Dr. John Southon of the W. M. Keck Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine last summer, and visit doctoral-granting institutions in California in preparation for a career in higher education and research.

“I went from being a soccer mom to working with nuclear physicists,” she quips. “There are so many, such as the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral program and the McNair scholarship, that the students here can take advantage of.”

“It’s remarkable that as an undergrad, Staryl can do all this,” says Sinha, “Most grad students are not even able to do this in the first or second year of their program, so she is light years ahead in terms of what she is able to do now. All these experiences she is having now are preparing her to have a really productive graduate student experience.”

Part of Glynn’s preparation for graduate school includes attending conferences where she learns about other students’ research and presents her own. Her presentations included a poster titled “Possible Solar Forcing of Late Holocene Mega-Droughts in India” at the international Solar Variability and Earth’s Climate Conference at the University of Rome; “Stalagmite Based Reconstruction of Atmospheric Radiocarbon Levels during Deglaciation: Implications for Radiocarbon Calibration,” which she shared at the 2006 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and “Stalagmite Based Reconstruction of Atmospheric 14C Levels: Implications for Radiocarbon Calibration,” which she presented at Cal State Dominguez Hills during the 2006 Student Research Day and at the International Conference on Speleothem Research in Innsbruck, Austria last November. She will also present “Reconstructing Past Climate and Hydrologic Variability of the Southwest United States Using Speleothems from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California” at this year’s Student Research Day at Dominguez Hills in November.

Glynn, who plans to earn her doctorate in paleoclimatology and teach at the college level while continuing her research, is grateful to her professors, particularly Sinha, for taking the time to develop her potential.

“I really have to thank Dr. Sinha,” she says. “Because I was interested in his research, he has supported me in my endeavors and given me his time to help me learn the major concepts.”

“Students like Staryl are really going to change the course of the university,” adds Sinha. “It is a long road, but we are going from being a teaching-oriented university to a scholar and research-oriented institution. She is a role model for students here of all ages that it can be done. If you want to pursue higher education, you can start thinking about it while at Dominguez Hills.”

- Joanie Harmon

Photo above: Staryl Glynn, senior, earth sciences, measures the amount of calcite accumulated over time in a stalagmite in Crystal Cave at Sequoia National Park. Photo courtesy of Staryl Glynn

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Last updated Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 4:57 p.m., by Joanie Harmon