New computer program to give students experience with geosciences’ data

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a grant of $144,244 to Williams College to fund a project titled “Visualizing Strain in Rocks with Interactive Computer Programs.” The project is under the direction of Paul Karabinos, professor and chair of the geosciences department.

Karabinos’ project emphasizes the importance of strain in structural geology and seeks to develop computer programs to view and analyze strain. Strain is a fundamental topic in structural geology in understanding the development and formation of rocks in folds and fault zones. The exercises will provide an opportunity for students to critically examine the assumptions and limitations of any attempt to quantify natural process.

The program with its tutorials will improve undergraduate courses in structural geology, fostering a deeper understanding of how commonly used strain methods work.

“Virtually every undergraduate geology program offers a course in structural geology,” explains Karabinos. “A successful structural geology course should give students first-hand experience in gathering and analyzing data.”

Karabinos is currently studying a number of western New England sites, including the Chester Dome, Shelburne Falls, and the Berkshire massif and his new grant also supports addition of a computer application to this research.

He is the author of numerous research papers and has presented his work at the Geological Society of America and the New England Intercollegiate Geologic Conference.

He joined the Williams faculty in 1983 and teaches a range of course offerings, including Structural Geology, Geology of the Appalachians, and How Do Mountains Form?

Karabinos received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He did his postdoctoral work at Harvard.

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