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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. Julianna Barnett

    Julianna is a student intern in the Argon geochronology laboratory.

  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. 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.

  5. 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.


  1. Brandon Dennis — Computer Science

    [see 2023 details above]

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


  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 2022 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.