Geology alum talks about martians around us

Collin Goeman

Aaron Tomski

Geology students gathered in Harrington Hall Thursday to hear UW Oshkosh alum Mike Tappa speak about his studies in isotope geochemistry in relation to meteorites, particularly from Mars.

After graduating, Tappa worked at NASA studying many meteorites believed to have originated from Mars. He now works as Manager of Major Analytical Research Laboratories at Boston College.

“Geology requires us to be detectives often, of events that occurred long ago,” Tappa said. “It is particularly useful in understanding fundamental questions related to how, when, and where meteorites form.”

Tappa said the study of meteorites is important to understand features of other planets in our solar system.

“Information in rocks related to the conditions present during formation and some isotope systems can be used to determine the age of specific rocks and minerals,” Tappa said. “Understanding the chronology permits us to further our knowledge of fundamental geologic processes such as how planets form or how mountains are built.”
UWO geology student Tucker Clark said hearing about the geology field being used to study meteorites is great to learn about.

“Anything from another planet is always interesting stuff,” Clark said.

Tappa said these studies are not only important to the geology field, but to the studies of astronomy as well.

“One of the most critical questions for nearly every planetary science and geological study relates to the age of the rocks and the relative timing of different events,” Tappa said. “Isotope geochemistry and geochronology can allow us to address those questions.”

Tappa said his time at UWO was crucial in preparing him for his work at NASA and now at Boston College.

“The UWO geology department provided me with a number of fantastic opportunities that set the foundation for my education and eventually my career,” Tappa said. “I graduated UWO with a solid understanding of the basic principles of geology and chemistry required to do the type of research I have done throughout my career.”

Tappa said his relationships with faculty and other opportunities he received at the University contributed to his success.

“My education was undoubtedly aided by having an abundance of direct access to faculty members and that type of support really encouraged me to explore subjects on a deeper level,” Tappa said. “Eventually, the questions that I started trying to address as a student at UWO are the same basic questions that have I continued exploring in my career.”

UWO geology student Max Schwid said it was awesome to hear about an alum in such an fascinating field of study.

“It’s really cool to see someone coming from UWO doing work like this,” Schwid said. “It’s not everyday you get to see such interesting work being done by someone who came from your school.”

Tappa said he attributes his successes in the field to the foundation he received at the University.

“I am proud of UWO and the education I received from the University,” Tappa said. “My career successes are the result of the educational opportunities I received during my time at the University.”

Tappa said he is extremely grateful for his experiences here, and was happy to come back to speak.

“I was honored to be presented with the opportunity to share my story at UWO and I wanted to demonstrate to current students what opportunities might await them in the future,” Tappa said. “