The power of the St. Lawrence experience united Anuva Anannya ’22, Helen Eifert ’18, and Associate Professor and Chair of Geology Alexander K. Stewart in conducting award-winning research.
Anuva, a McNair Scholar and geology and anthropology double major, has always been fascinated by geology and astronomy. When she approached Stewart, her faculty advisor, about turning her interests into a research project, he knew the perfect person to harness her curiosity: Helen Eifert ’18.
“I was always interested in research and I wanted to find an intersection between geology and astronomy,” Anuva said. “I told Dr. Stewart that I was interested in space and soon after, he connected me with [Helen] who is studying planetary sciences at Northern Arizona University.”
With the support of the St. Lawrence McNair Scholars Program, Anuva pursued her interest in planetary science by using remote-sensing on Mars to research the role of clay minerals in long-runout landslides on the planet under the guidance of Helen and Stewart.
“When COVID happened, I couldn’t go to Northern Arizona and do research in person. So, I was mostly doing work online and getting familiarized with the way research is done through literature review, reading a lot of papers on the topic, and getting introduced to the planetary databases,” said Anuva. “Helen is very familiar with Dr. Stewart so she knew what he would expect from me. I collaborated with both of them on different parts of the project.”
Helen, who was a geology major at St. Lawrence, says that Stewart supported her path from geology to planetary science by connecting her with St. Lawrence alumni. The familiarity of working with an undergraduate student at her alma mater was reminiscent of her own experience and helped her guide Anuva’s research experience.
“Anuva took the same classes as me and would have the same research guidance I had as an undergrad, and therefore it was easy to know where to start,” Helen said. “Without [geology] graduate students at St. Lawrence, geology undergraduates get to drive their research and work more directly with faculty. This was something I valued about my undergraduate experience that gave me confidence in the work Anuva would do.”
Stewart, who has worked with students on numerous geologic research projects, says that the opportunity for undergraduate students at St. Lawrence to conduct research allows them to take ownership of their projects.
“We treat our students as Master of Science-level graduate students – putting them through the learning hoops and allowing them to fail and figure out their own pathways. Rarely, if ever, have we just ‘given them data’ to make a poster,” said Stewart. “It's a start-to-finish process with our students — they develop the idea and work through to publication which includes a research poster, thesis, and peer-reviewed manuscript. It is our interest in a student’s development and their training from start to finish that separates us from our high-ranked peers."
When Anuva presented her research poster at the Geological Society of America Conference in Portland, Oregon, she wasn’t expecting to receive the Charles A. Mankin Best Poster award.
“It was a feeling of accomplishment and validation,” Anuva said. “This was the first time I was able to communicate my research to people who care about it. There were these exciting and interesting new questions developing from those conversations. They were not treating my research like, ‘You're just an undergrad, here’s what you should do.’ They were treating me like a colleague, and that helped me become more motivated for the future.”
Anuva, who co-authored two posters at the conference, is now part of a long line of award-winning geology students including last year’s sweep of the Montreal meeting by Gretchen Wambach ’21 and Claire Bartlett ’21. She says compiling the research and presenting the poster at the conference was a group effort.
“The McNair Scholars program helped me get more comfortable presenting, writing papers, getting IRB approved, and creating the poster,” Anuva said. “It wasn’t just my poster, it was the McNair supervisors, Dr. Stewart, and Helen’s work that prepared me for this presentation.”
As a member of the Class of 2022, Anuva is already gearing up for the next step in her educational journey with the support of the partnerships she created during the research project.
“[Helen] has been helping me prepare for grad school,” said Anuva. “She has been advising me on grad school applications – giving me a lot of insider tips and about planetary science in general about which professors are studying what I want to do in grad school, how to approach them, applying to fellowships, and networking.”
Stewart, who commends Anuva’s enthusiasm for research, does not doubt that she will find post-graduate success.
“The most rewarding aspect of working with undergraduates is that they are excited to learn, grow and develop as young, budding scientists. They bring an eagerness and excitement to the research that seasoned researchers miss without the undergraduate influence. It’s great to see them go off into the real world and become very successful,” said Stewart. “Anuva is very keen and sharp. She really has an eagerness to learn, is surely a multitasker, and ready to succeed. As a McNair student, she will be one to get a Ph.D.”
Anuva AnannyaClass of 2022
Anuva is from Dhaka, Bangladesh and attended Viqarunnisa Noon School and College. At St. Lawrence she is a member of International House (I-House), SLU Dance Ensemble, Laurentian Singers, Islamic Culture Club, A.S.I.A, Sigma Gamma Epsilon, and CSTEP. She is a McNair Scholar, Geology teaching and research assistant, and works at Launders Science Library.
Helen EifertClass of 2018
Eifert is a fourth-year Planetary Science Ph.D. student at Northern Arizona University. She holds a B.S. in Geology from St. Lawrence and completed a post-undergraduate internship with NASA where she examined landslide occurrences in Myanmar and developed and tested crowdsourcing methods for remote landslide identification.
Alexander StewartAssociate Professor and Chair of Geology
Stewart's research expertise includes all aspects of surface geology. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati and an MSc from the University of Kentucky. Retired from the U.S. Army, Stewart is a veteran of the Cold War and three foreign wars.