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Lakehead Student's Rock-Solid Thesis takes One of Three National Awards

(June 7, 2010 – Thunder Bay, ON) Lakehead University Honours student Rob Cundari has been awarded one of only three medals from the Volcanology and Igneous Petrology (VIP) Division of the Geological Association of Canada.  Each year, the Association presents three medals for the most outstanding theses written by Canadians or submitted by Canadian universities.  At least 50% of the thesis material must be related to the study of volcanology and igneous petrology. A gold medal is awarded for the best PhD thesis, a silver for the best MSc thesis, and an antique copper medal, which Mr. Cundari received, for the best BSc thesis.

Nominated theses are evaluated on the basis or originality, validity of concepts, organization and presentation of data, understanding of volcanology and petrology, and depth of research.

Cundari’s study provides clarity surrounding the classification of a unit of rock found in Devon Township, which is located south of Thunder Bay.  In 1931, it was thought the rock had erupted in a volcanic setting – on top of the earth's crust. In the 1970s, the same unit of rock was reclassified very differently as an intrusive unit that was erupted within the earth's crust, much like the rocks observed on Mt McKay and the Sleeping Giant. Additionally, Rob was faced with determining the age of the rock, and whether it was 1850 Ma like the underlying shales or 1100 Ma like the nearby midcontinent rift-related rocks.

As Cundari explains, the purpose of his thesis was to construct a map of the unit in question and identify it properly. “By analyzing the rocks, I was able to conclude the rock unit was erupted as a lava in a volcanic type setting.”  This conclusion was primarily based on the observation of a ropy texture called pahoehoe, which is often seen in the lavas currently erupting in Hawaii. Also, by analyzing the chemistry of the rocks and comparing it to others in the area, Rob was able to conclude that the lava had likely erupted approximately 1.1 billion years ago.

Rob's study involved spending time mapping the rocks in the area in order to find geological clues that would allow him to determine whether the rocks were intrusive or extrusive. In addition to the detailed observations Rob made in the field, he also collected samples for further analysis. His first step, once back from the field, was to make thin sections of the rocks and examine them under the microscope for clues about their origins.  The samples were then crushed to powder and shipped off to a lab which analyzed their geochemistry, results which allowed Rob to compare the rocks to databases of other units in the area, ultimately helping him reach his conclusions that the rocks were erupted on the Earth's surface 1.1 billion years ago.

Rob's supervisor, Dr. Pete Hollings of Lakehead’s Department of Geology, notes, "Rob has done and outstanding job throughout the year, and on this particular project.  I am proud that his achievement has been recognized by the VIP, and that Lakehead can boast yet another student of superb calibre."


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About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,700 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit

Last updated June 07, 2010

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