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CSUB Geology is Over the Moon about Rocks

The sky is not the limit when it comes to the lengths that Dr. O’Sullivan will go for her students at California State University, Bakersfield.

Recently, Dr. O’Sullivan arranged for moon rock samples to be sent to the University from NASA so her students could experience the thrill of viewing lunar rocks that are 3 to 4.5 billion years old.

Dr. O’Sullivan grew up in Bakersfield and, as a first-generation student, earned her Bachelor’s degree in geology at CSUB. After receiving her Ph.D at Notre Dame University, Dr. O’Sullivan returned to CSUB to teach geology.

Her Ph.D research focused on the mineralogy of moon rocks, and Dr. O’Sullivan wanted her CSUB geology students to also experience the excitement and educational inspiration of examining lunar samples under the microscope.

At Dr. O’Sullivan’s request, NASA sent rock samples from every Apollo mission that collected geological samples of the moon. Under federal regulations, the Geological Sciences Department could not advertise the rock samples were at CSUB, and these national treasures were kept under lock and key when they were not in use.

NASA provided 12 thin sections of rocks (rocks sliced and polished thin enough so that light can pass through the mineral crystals composing the rock), along with small pieces of rock and sediment embedded in plastic.

Students were fascinated with the thin sections of rock under the microscope, viewing everything from volcanic rock to impact-shattered rock to orange sediment.

“I probably will never have another opportunity to look at real thin sections of moon rocks,” said undergraduate geology major, Carrie Williams.

CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny, Interim Provost Vernon Harper, Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering (NSME) Dean Kathleen Madden and Associate Dean Todd

McBride, along with geology faculty also visited and saw the 3 to 4.5 billion year-old national treasures that traveled 238,900 miles to CSUB.

The experience impressed everyone, including geology major, Alexandria Garcia, who indicated that, “this opportunity helped me realize how much more information there is to discover with geological studies, both on Earth and in our solar system. It is an experience I will never forget.”

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