Stellar Student David Davis: Research is the Key

Some students in the Geosciences Department seem to have always been around, like amiable ghosts of Kell Hall. You’ve presented with them at conferences and shared a pitcher at trivia night. In the case of undergrad David Davis, the truth is: he’s been a little bit of everywhere, and it’s his determination and involvement in Geosciences that may lead him straight to hypothetical outer space.

D: I didn’t grow up in Atlanta. I was born in Keflavik, Iceland and was raised in Merced, California. I have truly fallen in love with Atlanta though.

And one can appreciate why. Davis’ past, present, and future opportunities are all brag-worthy. But he didn’t always know that geology was “his thing.”

D: I was a Bio major at Merced Junior College, then briefly studied Physics. My decision to switch to Geosciences was based on my lack of desire to learn math, honestly. I’ve always been interested in space, planets, and moons, so I thought…how could I study all of those things? The answer was geology.

In the time that Davis has been with GSU, he’s decorated his proverbial belt with awards from the National Technical Association and the National Association of Black Geoscientists (both in 2017), and received the GSA Minority Student Scholarship this year. His publications could also stand alone as a testament to his success.

So it’s no surprise that he forged bonds with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Massachusetts last summer as an intern with the Partnership Education Program. This year he’s back at it.

D: I was accepted to the Summer Student Fellows program at WHOI where I’ve been analyzing vanadium isotopes in Martian meteorites, anchondites, and meteorites from asteroid Vesta, or eucrites. We’re looking at vanadium isotopes because they are a proxy for high energy irradiation. When it comes to vanadium, Earth’s is isotopically heavier than Mars and the moon. Part of my work is to try to understand why.

His summer doesn’t seem to have all of the trappings of a stereotypical break. But Davis appears to have put several key pieces together within his area of study.

D: I just recently attended a geo-biology talk. The PI is exploring the microbiology of the lower oceanic crust. Towards the end of her talk she mentioned an opportunity with NASA to apply this type of thinking to ice moons such as Enceladus and Europa. I’m seriously considering switching things up and going down the planetary geo-biology path. I want to be a part of the search for life and habitability on other planets.

As for his future, he has his sights set on five Ph.D. programs spanning the country, including one in the less contiguous state of Hawaii. One can’t help but ask what his secret is.

D: Get involved in research – you won’t regret it. The research I’ve enjoyed the most has been the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) at Georgia State.