Students Present Research at NC Space Symposium

PCC students Christian Knobel, Addison Hudson and Garret Freeman (left to right) presented a poster detailing research they conducted at Flanner Beach Formation during the 2023 NC Space Symposium, which took place at N.C. State University's McKimmon Center in April.

WINTERVILLE—After conducting research at an eastern North Carolina geologic formation, a group of Pitt Community College students shared results of their efforts during the 2023 NC Space Symposium.

The conference, which took place in Raleigh last month, gave Garret Freeman, Addison Hudson and Christian Knobel a chance to discuss work they conducted at Flanner Beach Formation through the NC Space Grant-funded 2022-23 Community College Undergraduate Research Cohort. Joining them was PCC Geology Instructor Brian Gray, who served as the project’s faculty advisor.

Gray said the students—all academically-gifted and pursuing college transfer degrees—learned quite a bit through the research project, including how to use new equipment, conduct lab sampling, enter data into charts and graphs, and essentially “figure out what all of it” meant.

“The students found out what is involved in finding a research project and the logistics of getting it started, completing a geological field sampling program, and dealing with eastern North Carolina weather in the winter,” Gray said. He added that they also learned how to create poster presentations and present research results at a major scientific conference.

The PCC students’ poster, titled “Sedimentology and Stratigraphy of the Flanner Beach Formation (Middle Pleistocene) in Beaufort County, N.C.,” was one of 54 featured during the symposium’s two poster sessions.

According to Gray, Flanner Beach Formation was deposited approximately 200,000 years ago during a sea-level high stand in east-central North Carolina. He said research at the site prior to the PCC student project focused on measuring and describing exposed sections of the formation and faunal ecology.

Gray said Pitt’s research built upon previous work at the formation and expanded exposed sections to the southwest while concentrating more on sedimentology and internal stratigraphy. The project, he said, involved looking at exposures differently, including taking continuous core samples, obtaining bulk samples for grain-size analysis, and systematic sampling for analysis by sediment/unit descriptions, gamma-ray logging and magnetic susceptibility response.

“As a result of this investigation, we have been able to subdivide the upper Mauls Point Member of the Flanner Beach Formation into three sub-units: the upper sand unit, the middle, mixed sand and mud unit, and the lower sand unit,” Gray said.

He also noted students identified the formation’s ‘unnamed member’ and correlated gamma-ray and magnetic susceptibility logs with the Flanner Beach Formation’s lithostratigraphy.

The NC Space Grant that made the PCC research possible was funded through NASA. The grants were established to encourage two-year community college students to become involved with conducting scientific research. They provide a year of funds to supplement and enhance research that culminates in a final report and poster presentation at the NC Space Grant Symposium.

Each year, the symposium celebrates student research through a combination of presentations by NASA and space industry professionals. It also offers attendees networking opportunities.