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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Student Experiences

Alex Teel - Earth and Space Science, Physics

Alex's Project - "Elasticity and Anisotropy of Common Crustal Minerals"

Full interpretation of crustal seismology in terms of composition and fabric is difficult in the absence of high quality elasticity data for the constituent minerals. Over the last forty years, a limited data set based on 1-bar ultrasonic determinations has served as the principal foundation for such discussions. We have now measured single crystal elastic properties of several dominant crustal minerals in both feldspar and amphibole mineral series. We use impulsively stimulated light scattering to determine body wave or surface wave velocities as a function of propagation direction on crystals having dimensions of tens to hundreds of microns. Full tensor elastic constants for these low symmetry (monoclinic and triclinic) crystals were obtained by inverting the velocity data. We observe greater velocity anisotropy and find constants that are 10 to 25% larger than previously reported constants. Some of the constants that appear biased low in the older data set are associated with strains in common cleavage directions; this underscores the need for a full re-examination of crustal scale elasticity modeled from properties of constituent minerals. In particular, the new data suggest that minerals less abundant than feldspars and amphiboles have a significant role in obtaining an adequate fit to crustal velocity profiles and that large-scale elastic anisotropy of the crust must be addressed in the next generation of crustal velocity models.

When, how, & why did you get involved in research?

I received an email sent out to all Earth and Space Sciences students advertising a seminar on crustal mineral elasticity. The email mentioned research potential and I knew I wanted to do research so I took the seminar and began doing research after that.

The most exciting aspect of my undergraduate research experience is knowing that I am finding answers to questions that have never been answered before.

What advice would you give to other student?

Take a wide variety of classes in your field to figure out what things interest you. Then talk to professors who study what you are interested in and see if they have any work for an undergraduate. Don't be shy.

Future Plans

I will be begin graduate school in a geophysics graduate program. (I have been accepted to one program, have visited one school and am awaiting a final decision, scheduled to visit another school and am waiting to hear from two other programs as of Feb. 5, 2007)


I would like to thank Professor J. Michael Brown for mentoring me as an undergraduate researcher. He has shown me what research is all about and given me every tool I need to succeed in undergraduate research, graduate work and beyond.

Awards and Honors

  • Undergraduate Travel Award


  • UW Undergraduate Research Symposium
  • American Geophysical Union 2006 Fall Meeting