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HU Environmental Geology Student Awarded Grants to Study Galisteo Basin

New Mexico Highlands University environmental geology graduate student Richard Ashu was recently awarded three grants to fund his master’s thesis research in the Galisteo Basin in north-central New Mexico.

The grants include $1,300 from the New Mexico Geological Society, $400 from Sigma Xi, a scientific research society, and $2,000 from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

“The goal of my research is to identify the structure of hydrocarbon traps in parts of the Galisteo Basin,” Ashu said. “My research is novel because I’ll be using four different approaches, including magnetic, gravity, seismic and geological mapping. We’ll use Kingdom geophysical modeling software and ArcGIS software to create a 3-D model. The Kingdom software is a new geophysical data reduction tool that gives us better interpretive assessments.”

A hydrocarbon trap is an area in the subsurface where oil and gas might accumulate. Ashu said there is evidence of petroleum in the Galisteo Basin. His research will try to identify the geophysical characteristics and signals of the different geologic structures, which will help locate the hydrocarbon traps. 

“The Kingdom modeling software will help estimate the hydrocarbon potential in the Galisteo Basin,” Ashu said. “We will develop maps of the studied areas and come up with a model that can be used in other locations that have hydrocarbons.”

Highlands University environmental geology professor Michael Petronis chairs Ashu’s master’s thesis committee. Geology professor Jennifer Lindline and chemistry professor David Sammeth are also on Ashu’s thesis committee.

“Richard is excellent academically,” Petronis said. “I’d say he’s in the upper 10 percent of students I’ve taught. He’s very quick to grasp complex geophysical concepts and operation of the various instrumentation. All these research grants Richard managed to secure demonstrate how serious he is about his graduate studies. These grants also show that other experts in the geophysical exploration field recognize his knowledge on the subject.”
Ashu, 27, is from Cameroon and earned an undergraduate degree in geology from the University of Buea, Cameroon. He also earned a master’s degree in engineering geology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. Ashu learned about Highlands University from a friend who is a geologist in England.

Petronis said he was impressed with Ashu’s academic credentials when Ashu contacted him about pursuing his master’s degree in geology at Highlands, with a focus on geophysical research.

“Richard’s extremely high G.P.A. and extensive background in mathematics, physics and geology really made him stand out,” Petronis said. “He’s been very proactive with his education.”

Ashu said he will complete his master’s degree in environmental geology from Highlands in spring 2010 and is already researching doctoral programs in geophysics. In the meantime, he said he appreciates the academics at Highlands.

“Highlands is very conducive to studying and it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me,” Ashu said. “I’m getting a solid foundation for my professional career here. I’m learning how to use more modern research instruments that I’ve never used before. This is what prospective employers will require me to know in the future.” 

Ashu added that the personal contact he has with professors at Highlands is important academically.

“I also appreciate how the professors are friendly and helpful,” Ashu said.

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