Marie Arrowsmith, 30, Geology
Marie Arrowsmith started college as a creative writing student but, having grown up in a northwestern New Mexico town where interesting rock formations were all around, perhaps it was inevitable that she would end up in geology. Arrowsmith earned her bachelor's degree in geology from the University of Arizona in Tucson in 2002 and went straight into a Ph.D. program. She will complete her work on her Ph.D. in summer 2008.
Arrowsmith works in geophysics, a subset of geology. More specifically, she works in seismology. "Like everyone else, I thought seismology was just about earthquakes in California," Arrowsmith says, "but I learned about this discipline that focuses on nuclear explosion monitoring."
Her work for her Ph.D. involves two research projects. Government analysts study seismogram data to determine whether nuclear explosions have taken place anywhere in the world. She has been working with adviser Brian Stump on methods for differentiating purposefully set mine "shots," used to free up minerals, from nuclear explosions that countries might be trying to conceal. She is using "ground-truth" data – ground truth being information about the way explosives are laid and sequenced – from mines in Wyoming and Siberia, Russia, in her research. Her work took her to Siberia in 2004. The trip was disappointing in some respects, Arrowsmith says (the Russians wanted to be compensated for the data her group was seeking) and rewarding in other ways (she met her husband on the trip).
The work for her second project is being conducted at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is developing a method to interpret data from new seismology stations. The method involves pairing earthquake data from the new station with earthquake data from a station that's been in existence. From this data, she can create a scaling factor that can be used to determine if nuclear explosions have taken place near the new station.