Student Program

GSS offers a work experience opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students who require mineral separations for their research!

Program highlights include:

  • Hands-on experience with heavy mineral separation techniques
  • Discounted mineral separations
  • Immediate turnaround with no rush charge
  • Opportunity to learn more about apatite and zircon analytical techniques
  • Chance to explore the beautiful Palouse region of Idaho and Washington.

This program is tailored to each student’s needs. Typical visits are between five and seven days to separate 10-20 samples. We highly recommend contacting us for availability and scheduling as soon as possible.


Mineral Separation (Min Sep)

  • Student works with our facility personnel to process up to 20 of their samples during their time at the GSS facility.
  • Student learns standard methods to separate mineral grains from a sample, with a focus on concentrating apatite and zircon grains for eventual helium, fission-track, or UPb thermochronology/dating.
  • Student actively participates in most phases of mineral separation, including sieving, washing, and lithium metatungstate (LMT, specific gravity: 2.95) and magnetic separations. For safety reasons, GSS does initial rock crushing and the final organic heavy liquid diiodomethane (DIM, specific gravity: 3.20) separation.
  • At the end of the program, the student departs with completed separates for all of their samples from which they can easily pick appropriate grains for eventual analysis.

Min Sep plus Zircon (Zrn) UPb Analysis

  • This combination program is designed for students interested in producing mineral separations from their samples, and then generating their own ZrnUPb analytical results from at least a few of their separates.
  • Initially, the student works with GSS facility personnel to process 10-15 samples as described above.
  • Once the mineral separates are completed:
    • Grain mounts are made for each zircon separate.
    • Appropriate grains are selected for analysis.
    • Student actively participates in the ZrnUPb analytical data generation, for sedimentary (DZ) or crystalline rocks (CZ).
    • Student observes or helps with the data processing.
  • The intent is for the student to depart with his/her completed separates and as many of the analytical results as possible. Scheduling is highly dependent on access to the nearby laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (LA-ICP-MS).
  • If analyses are required for additional samples, these results are provided to the student (at academic rates) as soon as possible, dependent on equipment access.

Stand-alone Zrn UPb Analysis

  • This program is suitable for students who already have zircon concentrates and would like to generate ZrnUPb analytical results.
  • See the last three bulleted list items for the combined program (above).

Former student visitor and supervisor comments:

“Learning the process of how heavy minerals are separated and collected from each of my samples helped my overall understanding of both the samples that I have and properties of the minerals that constitute them.” -AM

“Doing all my min-seps in a week and leaving with separates was incredibly nice and efficient and makes my life much more productive back at the university.” -CC

“[My student] certainly has a much more thorough understanding of geochronology now, particularly U/Pb using LA-ICP/MS methods . . . We greatly appreciate GeoSep's flexibility in working with our budgetary constraints and tight schedule.” -MR


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