Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

Lis Gallant, B.S. '12

Ph.D. Student, University of South Florida
Major(s): Geology

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

After attending Buffalo State I was fortunate to spend nine months as an intern for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. I worked alongside some of the biggest names in the field while learning how monitor active volcanoes and assess volcanic hazards. In 2013 I started work on a master's degree that focused on assessing lava flow hazards for nuclear facilities while at the University of South Florida (USF). I have remained at USF for my Ph.D. and have worked on projects that explore hazards related to volcanoes in Colombia, Nicaragua, Utah, and the Pacific Northwest. My current project focuses on how lava flows from Momotombo volcano are able to erode the ground onto which they flow, and what implications this may have for understanding the material properties of volcanoes from a planetary geology perspective. I have been an author two publications to date, with another three in the works.

Can you translate your work for the general public?

I look at the way lava flows interact with the landscape through field studies and computer models. Understanding how lava flows evolve over time allows for us to to simulate their behavior in order to predict where they might go during future eruptions. Forecasting the paths of future lava flows allows scientists and urban planners to work together to reduce negative interactions between people and volcanoes.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

I was interested in learning how to better bridge the gap between learning things in the field and applying that knowledge to further my own understanding of how volcanoes work. The support of my advisor, Dr. Bettina Martinez-Hackert, was the catalyst that transformed this casual interest into a research plan that became the foundation for my honors thesis.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

Working in Latin America under the guidance of a Latina advisor was extremely important in providing the human context for my work. Many individuals studying the volcanoes of this region in the 70's and 80's rarely conducted work in conjunction with local residents. Understanding the negative impact of this practice on the development of "homegrown" researchers and scientists has greatly influenced the way I conduct the work associated with my graduate studies.

Presenting my work at conferences early and often afforded me the time work through any deficiencies I had in verbally communicating my work to others. The confidence imparted by these experiences prepared me well to continue presenting as a graduate student, where I have won two prestigious presentation awards through the American Geophysical Union.

I had an exceptional working relationship with my advisor and additional mentors in the department (specifically Dr. Jill Singer). Dr. Martinez-Hackert and Dr. Singer were the reason I was able to get into graduate school, and for that I am eternally grateful. Additionally, the positive partnership I forged with these two women provided me with the working model I would like to provide to students once I become an advisor.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

Dr. Martinez-Hackert and I looked at explosive eruption deposits from Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador. Our research represented the first steps towards creating a comprehensive stratigraphic record of the crater and characterizing its eruptive history. We presented this work at the 2011 American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco, CA, the 2011 International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics meeting in Melbourne, AUS, and the 2012 Council for Undergraduate Research in Washington, D.C.

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Dr. Bettina Martinez-Hackert