Indiana State University Newsroom

Student wins top award at research conference

April 26, 2012

As judges at the Crossroads Geological Conference announced the winner of the outstanding undergraduate poster category, Brendan Paddack didn't expect to hear his name.

"I thought they read the wrong name at first. After everyone started looking at me, I got up. It is still hard to believe I won," he said.

Paddack, an earth science major from Waveland, is a sophomore at Indiana State University. Despite the fact that he gave his first undergraduate presentation at the conference, Paddack walked away with the honor of first place and a $100 cash prize.

Sigma Gamma Epsilon and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists hosted the conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, offering undergraduate and graduate students a chance to network with professionals and present their research. Representatives from various companies met with the students and acted as judges for the presentations.

"Without competition and qualified judges, undergraduate students rarely get the chance for helpful feedback from an array of interested professionals," said Indiana State University Professor of Geology Tony Rathburn, emphasizing the importance of such experiences for students. He noted that company representatives are good contacts for potential internships or job opportunities.

The chance to network and meet other student and professional geologists was one of the reasons Paddack wanted to attend the conference.

In addition, he wanted to get input on his presentation in preparation for a regional Geological Society of America event, and share his research results. Paddack's poster presentation, titled "Benthic Foraminifera Living Along the California Margin: A Transect Across the Oxygen Minimum Zone," summarized his independent research about the response of seafloor organisms to changes in oxygen availability.

"His research results have important implications for our understanding of the impacts of modern and ancient environmental change," said Rathburn.

The research uses samples Paddack collected during an NSF-sponsored research cruise off the coast of California in the summer of 2011. His co-authors include scientists from the University of Southern California, the Natural History Museum of London, Duke University and Indiana State University.

Paddack said the research experience has helped him prepare for the future.

"This research has given me a glimpse into the life of a graduate student," said the sophomore.

His experience at the Crossroads Conference also prepared him for a recent, regional event, and future presentations.

"Brendan will present his results to larger, broader audiences at Geological Society of America Conferences, and the pointers, advice, and confidence he gained at the Crossroads Conference will enable him to further improve his presentation skills," said Rathburn. "I'm certain that the positive experiences Brendan had at the Crossroads Conference will continue to benefit him as he progresses toward his career goals."

Photos: Paddack works on a core sampler while on a research trip off of the coast of California. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford Paddack in front of the research vessel New Horizon. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford

Contact: Tony Rathburn, professor of geology, Indiana State University, at 812-237-2269 or

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, ISU Communications and Marketing, at 812-237-3773 or