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For his senior honors thesis in geology and environmental geosciences, Matt Julin of Danville, Calif., is hoping to quantify pollutants contaminating a site where the U.S. Department of Energy once tested explosives.

Julin, a graduate of San Ramon Valley High School, says he is using a petroleum industry process called sequence stratigraphy to determine what is going on below the surface at the site, which is near Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in his home state.

Julin did field work for the project during a summer internship at the lab and is now writing his thesis under the direction of Dru Germanoski, professor and head of geology and environmental geosciences.

“I am using sequence stratigraphic methods to incorporate geophysical, lithologic, and hydrologic characteristics into a model of the subsurface,” says Julin. “The ultimate goal is to understand possible fluid migration pathways in this section of rock.”

According to Julin, two rinse-water lagoons and direct spills of chemicals used to cool down machinery after the testing of explosives left the area tainted enough to be declared a Superfund Site.

“They’re cleaning up the site, but we are projecting what can happen there in the future and also trying to understand where it is now,” he says. “The area is quite interesting to me, and I was eager to learn a bit more about the complex hydrogeologic architecture there.

“I’m still unsure of my career plans, but hydrogeology is a large industry for geologists, and it’s smart to some interest in it, although I haven’t done any research of this kind before,” he adds.

Julin feels “incredibly privileged” to have interned at the lab for two summers, through Lafayette’s externship program and alumna Ellen Raber ’76, the deputy department head of environmental protection at the lab.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory operated by the University of California. Its mission is to apply science and technology in the national interest, with a focus on global security, global ecology, and bioscience. Laboratory employees are working with industrial and academic partners to increase national economic competitiveness and improve science education.

“It’s the ability to collaborate with other institutions and make outstanding contacts with outside industry that make Lafayette unique,” Julin says. “Any school that is willing to allow a student to conduct research elsewhere and then bring it back to prepare and defend is first-rate in my book.”

Julin is a member of the Lafayette Concert Choir and Board of Trustees’ Committee on Grounds and Buildings.

Categorized in: Academic News