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“It’s been great. Professor Hovis has been helpful and encouraging,” says David Wattles ’00, a geology and environmental geosciences major from New Hartford, N.Y., and a graduate of New Hartford High School. “I really enjoy getting the chance to do scientific research at a higher level than just a class lab. Even when things don’t always work out right, you actually learn more than you thought you would.”

Things have been heating up this summer for EXCEL Scholar David Wattles. Working with Guy Hovis, Lafayette’s John H. Markle Professor of geology and head of the department, he is researching the thermodynamic properties of minerals and related substances.

Hovis explains, “We’re looking at a series of minerals, substances that make up rocks. As you heat them, they expand, and we want to see how thermal expansion affects the chemical composition of these substances. Minerals buried in the earth are at elevated temperatures. We’re trying to simulate these conditions at the earth’s surface.”

Hovis and Wattles are also conducting experiments on substituting ions in mineral structures to understand how the structures react to chemical substitution.

“I’ve been working with feldspars,” explains Wattles. “I’ve been replacing potassium in the rocks with rubidium to see what the effects are.”

The project has taken Wattles and Hovis to the University of Cambridge in England to make use of facilities there.

Says Wattles, “We were changing the composition of minerals and taking measurements at elevated temperatures. It was interesting research. I’d also never been to Europe before, so that was a great experience.”

The trip to Cambridge is indicative of the kinds of positive experiences EXCEL Scholars enjoy, Hovis says.

“David is a magnificent student,” he says. “There are so many positive aspects of research for a student like him. He had the opportunity to be exposed to a prestigious international university and the chance to work at graduate-school level. To interact with people in a serious but fun-loving atmosphere, engaged in the pursuit of knowledge, is an expansive kind of experience.”

Wattles, who is thinking about pursuing a career with the National Park Service or U.S. Geological Survey, enjoys the opportunity to do engaging research “instead of working by the book,” as he puts it.

“It’s been great. Professor Hovis has been helpful and encouraging. I really enjoy getting the chance to do scientific research at a higher level than just a class lab. Even when things don’t always work out right, you actually learn more than you thought you would.”

Another Side of David

He received the College’s James L. Dyson Geology Award in 1999. During last January’s interim session, he traveled to Kenya and Tanzania for 15 days to take a Lafayette course called Modern Sub-Sarahan Africa. He and his classmates examined the complex interplay of economic and cultural transition, resource-management policies, and sustainable development in Kenya and Tanzania, exploring the precarious balance between tradition and modern development in these two developing nations, along with their cultures, music, art, literature, economies and politics. They spent time in Kenya’s two principal cities, Nairobi, the capital, and Mombasa, a major Indian Ocean port. Among their destinations in Tanzania was Ngorongro Crater conservation area, a major volcanic caldera with a unique ecosystem.

The course was taught by Rexford A. Ahene, associate professor of economics and business and coordinator of Lafayette’s Africana Studies program, and Roger W. Ruggles, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“This is a lab to experience real issues,” says Ahene, a native of Ghana. “I want the students to have a better understanding of the balance between the developing needs of Africans — taking into account their history, culture and indigenous traditions — and the economic and political necessities of modern-day Africa.”

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