Published: May 28, 2014

Grad at a glance: Susan Krans

By: Katie Stiefel Media Communications katie.stiefel@cabs.msu.eduContact(s): Layne Cameron Media Communications office: (517) 353-8819 cell: (765) 748-4827

Susan Krans, MSU Ph.D. student, said that she did not choose geosciences, but that they chose her.

“I had taken a break from school for a while and had done some traveling and saw a lot of really cool rock formations,” Krans said. “I came back and took some geology classes, and then I just kind of fell into it that way.”

Krans is currently researching a sequence of flood basalts in the Ethiopian plateau. Flood basalts are massive outpourings of high volumes of lava that erupted prior to the opening of the East African Rift Valley.

“More specifically, the important aspect of our project is looking at the sequence of the lavas through a transect, which means we actually have a window into time. We can see what was happening as far as the lavas that were produced, the magmatism and how it interacted with the lithosphere prior to the eruption and then prior to rifting,” Krans said.

Krans traveled to Ethiopia for a month to collect samples of rock along with Tyrone Rooney, MSU geologist, and Brandon Chiasera, a fellow geology doctoral candidate.

“We have a very dense sampling, which is good, especially for collecting temporal aspects and trying to understand things through time,” Krans said.

The main goal of Krans’ research is to understand the melting of the magma and whether or not it is coming from shallow or deep sources within the earth. As magma journeys to the surface of the earth, it goes through a long history of interaction with obstacles.

“All these things change the chemistry of the rocks, so to understand where they originated from, you have to be able to strip away all those factors and look at the most primitive samples to understand anything about how they formed,” Krans said.

Krans’ trip to Ethiopia was the first time she conducted field research. She used sledge hammers and rock hammers to collect the samples of rock. Krans, Rooney and Chiasera are currently processing the samples in the lab. They crush the rocks, powder them and turn them into fused glass to analyze their chemistry.

Additional analysis will take place off campus where certain minerals will be analyzed to find their composition and specifically to give information about the depth and temperature of the original magma or where the magma was derived.

Krans said that she is very fortunate to have been able to go to Ethiopia for her doctoral research and participate in such a great project. When coming to MSU as a doctoral candidate, she felt comfortable with the general atmosphere and students within the geological sciences department.

“Generally, most of the departments I have been in are small, and I like that about MSU,” Krans said. “Sometimes when you are in a larger program you tend to feel like it is a sink or swim sort of mentality. It is not like that here, and I like that we all support each other and help each other to succeed.”

Susan Krans, MSU Ph.D. student, said that she did not choose geosciences, but that they chose her.

Susan Krans, MSU Ph.D. student, said that she did not choose geosciences, but that they chose her.

A new superpower on the horizon. Michigan State University scientists look to the sun to solve Earth's biggest problems. Read our paid post on the New York Times site