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Andrew Chase headshot

Andrew Chase

Seafloor Mapping Intern
Graduate Student
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

I am a first-year master's student studying geophysics. My research specializes in plate tectonics and more specifically I am studying the absolute motion of the pacific plate. The Hawaiian Islands, where I currently reside, was formed from localized volcanic activity in the middle of the pacific plate called a hot spot. As the Pacific plate moves, islands created by the hotspot a carried away from it creating a chain of islands getting progressively older the further from the hotspot they are. Many age-progressive seamount chains have been observed in the Pacific and my research uses data from these seamount chains in order to create a model for the pacific plates motion relative to the deep mantle. Since the data for my project has all been previously collected, my days are spent on my computer processing data and working on my model. I am looking forward to getting some hands-on experience as a seafloor mapping intern and getting to experience how some of the data I use every day is collected.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I studied physics and astronomy in undergrad and in the final semester of my senior year I took a geology class as an elective. I fell in love with geology while taking that class and my favorite topic was plate tectonics. After graduating I took a year off from school and looked into the possibility of studying geology. I was happy to find that a physics background could be very useful in many different earth science applications and was especially useful in the study of plate tectonics. While working as a bartender I dedicated the majority of my free time during my year off to research the field of geophysics, talk to professors and figure out the type of research that interests me most. Out of all the areas of research I looked into I still found plate tectonics to interest me the most. Plate tectonics revolutionized the field of geology, tying together and explaining so many other topics in the earth sciences, and yet there is still so much more we can learn from studying it.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

An undergraduate physics professor of mine influenced the path I am on the most. I worked with this professor on my senior research project and when I did not get accepted into any grad school that year he told me I would be an excellent graduate student and that he was confident I would be accepted if I took the right steps and tried again next year. Hearing that from him gave me the motivation and confidence that allowed me to devote the next year of my life to pursuing graduate school acceptance.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

If you look at a map of the Pacific Ocean floor you'll see that the Hawaiian seamount chain has a sudden bend, beyond that has been named the Emperor chain. The exact origin of this bend is still unknown, was it formed purely from a plate motion, plume motion change or a combination of both? This question fascinates me and I am reminded of it every time I see this amazing feature on a map.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

At my undergraduate institution, I worked as a tutor and lab assistant for the intro level physics and astronomy courses. These jobs gave me experience with talking to people without science backgrounds about science in a way they can understand.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Physics and Minor in Astronomy - Lycoming College 2018

What are your hobbies?

I use to be a competitive swimmer and continued with it through college. I no longer swim competitively but living in Hawaii gives me plenty of opportunities to be in the water, I am especially into bodysurfing. If I am not in the water or laying on the beach you'll most likely find me on a hike.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

I received an email sent out to all the students apart from the University of Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. It sparked my interests so I checked it out and when I learned about the seafloor mapping internship I thought it would be perfect for me and very relevant to my research.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the earth sciences it is very important to talk to as many professors in the areas that interest you most. When I was applying for graduate schools I emailed more professors than I could count, talked on the phone and Skyped with some and even met some in person when possible. I learned so much about what graduate school entailed and more specifically about what research in different fields looked like. It not only helped me find what interested me most but it also allowed professors to see me as a good fit.