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Stephen Wells Bright Star Interns

Since 2020, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources the Stephen Wells Bright Star Scholar Program has supported undergraduate students with paid internships with our laboratories, research scientists, and other essential operations.

Past and present interns are:
(If there are corrections or additions that should be made to this list, please contact Nelia Dunbar.)


  1. William Fawcett — Mechanical Engineering

    William Fawcett is a fourth-year mechanical engineering student supporting hydrogeology programs at the Bureau of Geology. A key project will be finding, digitizing, and interpreting groundwater data for the Socorro Basin. He will also be involved in other water data management projects, such as organizing data collected by the Aquifer Mapping Program.

  2. Kyle Gallant — Earth and Environmental Science

    Kyle was a Bright Star scholar as an NMT undergraduate major, and the internship funded his undergraduate research project investigating the structure of the San Marcial Basin using relative gravity measurements. He has stayed on at NMT and is undertaking a PhD project described below. Kyle is the first NMT student to receive Bright Star funding for graduate research. His Ph.D. project, directed by Prof. Veronica Prush in the Earth and Environmental Science Department, focuses on central New Mexico tectonics. Kyle's research centers on distinguishing the deformation patterns of two tectonic events that impacted New Mexico: the Laramide orogeny, a mountain-building event that occurred over most of the modern western US from 110-40 million years ago, and a later continental rifting event centered only in New Mexico, the Rio Grande rift, starting ~30 million years ago and continuing until today. He will map the locations of deformed rocks, collect measurements such as deformation kinematic indicators, and infer the timing of deformation using thermochronological techniques. These techniques use specific minerals that record the time at which that mineral experienced certain temperature ranges to constrain and better quantify regional deformation rates. The central questions driving the research are: when did the Fra Cristobal range in central New Mexico become a mountain range, what kind of tectonic events do the rocks in the range record, and how fast did the range exhume from depth in the crust?

  3. Jacob Gehrz — Geology

    Jacob is currently a student in the EES Department working towards an MS degree, with research that focuses on using the 40Ar/39Ar geochronology method. He works with Matt Heizler in the Bureau’s New Mexico Geochronology Research Lab (NMGRL) studying early Rio Grande evolution, through analysis of detrital sanidine and basalts in the Taos Gorge area. In addition to his research, Jacob primarily assists the NMGRL with sample processing of numerous contracts that support laboratory operations and students. He also contriubtes to the day-to-day operation of the mass spectrometers and other technical details.

  4. Allison Lamery — Mineral Engineering

    Allison is interested in land rescaping and mineralogy. She assists with sample preparation for the Argon Geochronology laboratory by rock crushing, sieving, and heavy liquid mineral separation.

  5. Michael Millard — Mathematics

    Michael Millard is a fourth-year mathematics and data science student supporting the Bureau's mission in the Bureau IT group. His initial task is working with Bureau research groups in defining data entry web forms and building the associated web apps. Michael also assists with routine IT support as needed. He hopes his efforts will contribute to the Bureau's mission while gaining an understanding of data engineering and industry technologies.

  6. Zora Toline-Minefee


  1. Julianna Barnett

    Julianna is a student intern in the Argon geochronology laboratory. She assists with sample preparation for geochronological analysis by rock crushing, sieving, and heavy liquid mineral separation.

  2. Antonio Chavez — Environmental Science

    Antonio is working with Marissa Fichera and Alex Rinehart to assist in conducting gravity surveys across the Socorro and La Jencia Basins. In addition to assisting with the larger survey project, Antonio will also conduct his own small-scale survey within the larger survey area in an area of structural complexity/interest. He will use field gravity survey equipment (gravimeter and RTX GPS), learn how to design geophysical surveys, and also learn how to process and interpret gravity data.

  3. Brandon Dennis — Computer Science

    In his fourth year of Bright Star funding, Brandon is working with the Bureau IT group, mainly focusing on generating web forms to replace Microsoft Access forms. He also continues assists Chris Armijo on various support challenges. In past years, Brandon played a key role in migrating a database on a USGS-funded research project in the Gallinas Mountains from MS Access to MS SQL Server. This change helped eliminate many of the challenges associated with multiple researchers managing data in a MS Access database. The process developed for the Gallinas migration is being tested on other MS Access databases within the Bureau, specifically one focusing on New Mexico Mines. Brandon will be assisting Mark Leo-Russell in setting up the database for DOE-funded REE in Coal project. Brandon is also working on a project to evaluate software tools to generate web forms for simple data entry and edit functions. The goal is to develop a documented process for generating web forms which could be used in place of MS Access for data entry and edits where appropriate.Brandon also was recently first author on a paper entitled: Comparative Analysis of Object Visualization Tools with Respect to Their Use in Education

  4. Brianna Detsoi — Chemistry

    Brianna's research project focuses on using humates as a filtering medium to remove uranium from water, working with Bureau of Geology researchers Bonnie Frey, Virginia McLemore, and Earth and Environmental Science faculty member Ranalda Tsosie. She won 2nd place in the Environment Division Student Poster Competition at the 2024 Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) annual meeting, competing against other undergraduate, MS, and PhD students. Her research is currently funded by a Department of Energy research grant.

  5. Anne Dunn — Materials Engineering

    In her Bright Star project, Anne Dunn is working on molecular dynamic simulations of quartz breakage, resulting from an applied shear stress, in an aqueous environment. Water molecules affect the Si-O bonds at the outer quartz surface, through solvation, and along the fracture surface (possible cleavage surface) as the fracture propagates through the quartz structure, the process known as stress corrosion.

    Most of us were taught in introductory geology that one of the integral properties of quartz is conchoidal fracture (and the absence of cleavage). It turns out that this is not exactly true. Rapid breakage does result in conchoidal fracture, but quartz can exhibit cleavage and it is not uncommon in samples found in certain types of geologic environments.

    It has been hypothesized that slow fracture propagation in the presence of an aqueous fluid, through the process of stress corrosion, may lead to the development of quartz cleavage planes. This video, courtesy of Alan Hart, shows a particularly striking example. This is a quartz crystal that grew from a hydrothermal fluid into an open space in a vein (in Hot Springs, Arkansas). During the growth process the crystal was cleaved and the two pieces were displaced but not separated. Continuation of quartz precipitation along the cleavage plane “healed” or recombined the two pieces into what is now a single crystal again.

  6. William Fawcett — Mechanical Engineering

    [see 2024 details above]

  7. John Lempke — Chemical Engineering

    In his second year of Bright Star scholarship funding, John is continuing to work on a collaborative project between New Mexico Tech and Navajo Technical University focusing on water quality research. He has been involved in water sampling in Alamo, NM. John also helped with the installation of a new inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer, recently funded by that National Science Foundation, in a grant to Bonnie Frey who is John's supervisor.

  8. Michael Millard — Mathematics

    [see 2024 details above]

  9. Roheel Pashtoon — Earth and Environmental Science

    Roheel worked in the Bureau of Geology's argon geochronology laboratory completed tasks like crushing rocks, sieving, acid washing, heavy liquid separation, and concentrating minerals of interest for 40Ar/39Ar geochronology, as well as other general tasks that contributed to the functioning and organization of the mineral separation facility. This project was relevant to his interest in sedimentology.

  10. Natalie Schneider — Computer Science

    Natalie's project has focused on collaborative research between New Mexico Tech and Navajo Technical University, focusing on water quality research. Her specific contribution has been in the area of database development. During her project, Natalie worked with Bureau of Geology researchers and also with scientists from INTERA, a company that has contributed toward the Bright Star Scholarship fund.

  11. Jack Sterrett — Earth and Environmental Science

    Jack worked in the Bureau of Geology's argon geochronology laboratory completed tasks like crushing rocks, sieving, acid washing, heavy liquid separation, and concentrating minerals of interest for 40Ar/39Ar geochronology, as well as other general tasks that contributed to the functioning and organization of the mineral separation facility. This project was relevant to his interest in volcanology.

  12. Jonnie Woody — Biomedical Science

    Jonnie Woody is learning instrumentation and water analysis in the Bureau of Geology’s Analytical Chemistry Laboratory. Jonnie is a senior biomedical science major who plans to go to medical school in fall 2024 and become a pediatric oncologist on the Navajo Nation. She is a tribal member of the Navajo Nation who grew up on the reservation, where she experienced firsthand the struggles Navajo people face with having limited access to clean water and addressing water rights. Her work in the analytical laboratory offers an opportunity to learn more about water quality. Jonnie is the vice president of the NMT AISES student club.

  13. Taylor Yazzie — Earth and Environmental Science

    Taylor's senior project, partly supported by a Bright Star scholarship, focuses on compiling information on groundwater quality in the Navajo Nation. She presented her results at the 2023 AISES national meeting.


  1. Julianna Barnett

    [see 2023 details above]

  2. Antonio Chavez — Environmental Science

    [see 2023 details above]

  3. Brandon Dennis — Computer Science

    [see 2023 details above]

  4. Marianne Lara — Mechanical Engineering

    Marianne is working with Barbara J Horowitz, Publications Program Manager, to experience the Bureau of Geology’s end-to-end publications process. Focusing on Marianne’s creative studio interests, this includes providing design and production services for Bureau’s general audience, outreach and technical publications and special projects; serving as point person for figures, photography and illustration work; enhancing her knowledge of Creative Suite applications as well as learning new software programs and tools; participating in the print production and online posting processes; managing project workflow; maintaining the operation and calibration of office equipment; and helping to organize the program’s electronic/hard copy files and print samples.

  5. John Lempke — Chemical Engineering

    [see 2023 details above]

  6. Jonnie Woody — Biomedical Science

    [see 2023 details above]


  1. Brandon Dennis — Computer Science

    [see 2023 details above]

  2. Kyle Gallant — Earth and Environmental Science

    Kyle will be investigating the structure of the San Marcial Basin using relative gravity measurements. This work supports on-going StateMap efforts in the basin, which has few deep wells and extremely limited geophysical data. In addition to advancing our understanding of this enigmatic rift basin, Kyle's work will be useful for planning new water well sites in future hydrogeologic studies. You can get more information about Kyle's project by reading this "Postcard from the Field" and by viewing a video about his experience as an intern.

  3. Ethan Haft — Earth and Environmental Science

    Ethan's Bright Star project involves studying carbonatites in the Lemitar Mountains, near Socorro. He will be investigating the geochemistry, mineralogy, fenitization and potential for rare earth elements. Ethan was awarded a 2021 New Mexico Geological Society "Grant-in-Aid" to support his research, based on the quality of his research proposal to the society.
  4. John Lempke — Chemical Engineering

    [see 2023 details above]


  1. Brandon Dennis — Computer Science

    [see 2023 details above]

  2. Haley Dietz — Mineral Engineering

    Dr. Virginia McLemore supervised Haley's research on rare earth element deposits in the Gallinas Mountains.

    View a video about Haley's internship, which was funded specifically in memory of Gloria Peterson, the late wife of long-time New Mexico Tech employee Denny Peterson.

  3. Arzoo Rishad — Earth and Environmental Science

    Dan Koning will supervise research on the paleomagnetic analysis of sedimentary rocks.