Rebekah Adams ’21


Chemical and Biological Engineering

Project Title

Predicting Environmental Conditions of the Past Using Soil Chemical Analysis

Presentation Link

View Rebekah's Presentation

Certificate(s): Biophysics, Engineering Biology

I studied paleosols, which are layers of soil formed in a past geological period. Paleosols could provide insight into the ancient climate, but their formation between basalt lava flows has made predicting the intensity of past climate variations inaccurate. A key example is the controversy over the role of climate variablity in the extinction of the dinosaurs. My internship focused on using chemical and mineralogical variations in red-clay samples from the Deccan Traps in India to determine whether they are basalt (volcanically) derived. I determined their chemical composition by creating pellet samples for an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and interpreted the resulting spectral data. I made extensive soil plots for a compartitive study of my new empirical data to previously published data on basalt weathering and paleosol formation. I had the opportunity to process paleosol maps that were created with a synchrotron X-ray microprobe, which takes samples at various points underground to analyze a soil’s elemental composition. Through this internship, I realized the power and versatility that comes with understanding soil chemistry when trying to understand climate. It has prompted me to look for more career or research opportunities in environmental research and sustainable innovation.

Internship Year


Project Category

Climate Change and Environmental Science


Myneni Group, Department of Geosciences- Princeton, New Jersey


Satish Myneni, Professor of Geosciences; Jianshu Duan, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences; Danielle Schlesinger, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences