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UH Geophysicist Leads High Schoolers in Search Beneath Convention Center

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October 27, 2009-Houston-
The Society of Exploration Geophysicists 2009 International Exposition and 79th Annual Meeting in Houston will feature UH Geophysicist and former astronaut selectee Robert Stewart in a hands-on activity with 270 area high school students at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The Oct. 28 event, "Extreme Geophysics: From Exploring Maya Ruins to an Arctic Mars Colony," is designed to show students the practical applications of science and give them experience with high-tech radar and seismic imaging equipment. Groups of students will get to see what lies beneath the floor of the convention center by using ground-penetrating radar instruments and seismic sensors and recorders.

"The geosciences are really interesting and relevant, especially in Texas. But Earth Science isn't widely taught at the high school level in Texas yet, so we targeted advanced placement (AP) physic teachers and students," said University of Houston Geophysicist Rob Stewart. "So far, we have 270 high school science students, grades 9-12, and 14 teachers from eight schools in the greater Houston area. The goal of the program is to excite students about science, inspire them to pursue a college degree and a career in any type of applied science (preferably geophysics!), and give them some personal, hands-on experience in geophysical survey."

Stewart, who applies his geophysical expertise in fields as diverse as space exploration and archeology, is especially well-suited to deliver that message.  He was one of a tiny handful selected as an astronaut for the Canadian space program.  Although Stewart did not join a space mission, he did test space suits in Mars-like conditions at a NASA base in the Arctic to assess whether astronauts could perform geological studies while wearing bulky space gear.

Stewart also has trekked to the rainforests of Belize to help archeologists unravel the mysterious disappearance of an ancient civilization. Using seismic imaging, he scans Maya pyramids that are still buried, intact and untouched by excavation.

Seismic data can provide a rough sketch of the ruins - including the location of tombs and burial chambers - to help future archeological digs. Stewart will discuss these ventures with students during the presentation.

Stewart is the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Exploration Geophysics and director of UH's Allied Geophysical Lab. His work involves finding more advanced seismic imaging methods to unlock new oil and gas deposits deep beneath the Earth's surface. His research is especially vital in deep-sea exploration.

He received a Ph.D. in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a professor at the University of Calgary before coming to UH in 2008.

The "Extreme Geophysics" event is part of SEG's week long annual conference taking place this year at Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center.

For more information about the Society for Exploration Geophysicists, please visit www.seg.org 

WHAT:            Applied Science Program with leading UH Geophysicist Robert Stewart,
"Extreme geophysics: From exploring Maya ruins to an Arctic Mars colony"
WHEN:            10 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28
WHERE: George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston , Level 3 George Bush Grand Ballroom  B
WHO: Speaker includes leading geophysicist and former astronaut selectee Robert Stewart and 270 high school science students, grades 9-12, and 14 teachers from eight schools in the greater Houston area.

For more information about the Society for Exploration Geophysicists, please visit www.seg.org

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