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James Biemiller – National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Name: James Biemiller

Class Year: 2015

Hometown: Lancaster, PA

Major(s): Physics and Geology

Opportunity and Year: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2017

Project Summary: For my graduate research at the University of Texas I use a variety of numerical and geophysical techniques to estimate stresses and deformation rates on active faults in the Earth, to model the structural evolution of tectonic plate boundary systems, and to tie together seismic-cycle and long-term tectonic timescales of both permanent and elastic deformation related to fault movement. My proposed project focuses on the Mai’iu Fault in Southeastern Papua New Guinea, using GPS monitoring and numerical modeling to determine whether this active low-angle normal fault is accumulating elastic strain to be released in a future earthquake or if it is creeping aseismically.

How did W&L prepare you for this opportunity? The mentorship and high-quality science education I received from the W&L Geology and Physics professors provided the practical skills and academic background I needed for graduate school. In particular, the field-based geology curriculum and Summer research opportunities helped me recognize and prepare for the many challenges that arise during geoscience fieldwork

Why did you apply for this opportunity? The NSF GRFP gives graduate students greater flexibility in their research and allows them to pursue their own research interests without being tied to a particular project or grant.

Post-graduation Plans: After finishing graduate school at the University of Texas I hope to pursue a research and teaching position in geophysics.

How will this opportunity help you achieve your goals? This fellowship will give me increased freedom and time to focus on research questions that pop up in the course of my studies.

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Volunteer Venture (DC!) trip leader
  • Geology peer tutor
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
  • GLBT Equality Initiative
  • LGBTQ Confidential Peer Counselor

Off-campus Experience:

  • Semester at the University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Spring term Geology 105 class on coral reefs in Belize with Dr. Lisa Greer
  • Spring term Geology 373 class on the regional geology of Hawaii with Dr. Elizabeth Knapp
  • Geology research in Spain with Dr. Chris Connors
  • Geology research in Argentina with Dr. Dave Harbor and Dr. Jeff Rahl
  • ESOL Feb break service trips to the Dominican Republic
  • Volunteer Venture pre-orientation trips to Washington, D.C.

Research Experience:

  • Photogrammetry research with Dr. Connors
  • Tectonic geomorphology research with Dr. Harbor and Dr. Rahl
  • Geology senior thesis with Dr. Harbor on fluvial erosion on Mars

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