Graduate student Kate Frank’s garage looks pretty typical, except for the corner where she stores her rocks when she’s home for the summer. Some college kids bring home furniture. Frank brings back rocks.
“I’m a geologist. I like rocks,” she says. “I collect interesting things from my travels.”
And while some people might bring back T-shirts, magnets or tacky shot glasses from their travels, Frank brings back pieces of the places themselves. Most of the rocks that are currently residing in Frank’s garage are from Wyoming, where she attended a field camp earlier in the summer. She has some fossils, such as belemnites (the torpedo-shaped skeletons of ancient squid) and gryphaea (curved oyster shells referred to as “devil’s toenails”). She also has some regular rocks, like sandstone, limestone and gypsum. Some of her personal favorites are the vugs, which are similar to geodes.
“It’s a shell filled with quartz, calcite and other neat crystals,” she says.
She also likes the BIFs, or Banded Iron Formations, which is sedimentary rock that contains iron and forms a layered red-orange stone.
“It has so much iron that it’s magnetic. And really heavy,” she says. “It looks pretty neat.”
Frank has been collecting rocks since elementary school, but didn’t realize that she liked geology so much until after her freshman year at Iowa State University, where she changed her major from graphic design to geology. Frank’s father is a geologist, and he has taken the family on rock-related trips over the years, to places like the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Utah’s Arches National Park. Frank graduated in May from Iowa State, and is staying in Ames to continue her graduate studies. She’s specializing in economic geology, or mining.
“I’m specifically looking at exploration, which is helping companies find places to mine, rather than overseeing the actual mining process,” she says.
This August, Frank will get a chance to get hands-on experience in her field of study and begin her graduate work — in Sweden. She will go to Sweden for three weeks this summer to help a company called Boliden explore deposits and develop guides for future mining.
Frank is both nervous and excited, but there’s one problem that troubles her the most.
“I don’t speak a word of Swedish, so it should be interesting,” she laughs.