Graduate Student Spotlight: Kara Brugman

In our continuing series featuring School of Earth and Space Exploration students, we sat down recently with Ph.D. student Kara Brugman to find out what she’s been up to this semester, what advice she has for first-year graduate students, and what she is planning for the near future.    

Brugman, who studies experimental petrology and volcanology, is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and is currently finishing up her fourth year at the school. Her research focus is on high silica systems, particularly the lesser-known “slow oozy eruptions.”

Earlier this semester, Brugman had the opportunity to attend the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Chapman Conference in Quinamávida, Chile with her advisor, school faculty member Christy Till.

They were joined by scientists in diverse fields such as geophysics, petrology, geochronology, and modeling to help identify the most promising ways to improve our understanding of how large silicic magma systems grow and erupt. Brugman presented a co-authored paper and was able to join a field trip to the Laguna del Maule volcanic field. 

Brugman sees a distinct benefit when scientists from different disciplines work on the same system to help understand what is happening. “Trips like this are important to scientists, not only to learn from others, but also to see, in person, the places they are studying,” she says. “Seeing the place made it real.”

Back at ASU, Brugman works in two of the school’s well-known labs, the Experimental Petrology and Igneous processes Center (EPIC) and the Nanoscale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (NanoSIMS) lab. Access to these labs, and how they can further her research, was one of the reasons Brugman selected ASU. “There’s a lot we don’t know about what happens in a volcano,” she says. “And having access to these labs and instruments is vital to this research.”

Her advice to new graduate students includes practical tips like “getting good citation management software.” She also says it’s important to remember that professors want you to succeed. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.”

On the personal side, she recommends making sure to have extracurricular activities to reduce stress. “There is a lot of unexpected emotional strain in graduate school,” says Brugman, “so you need something outside of research.” So far, Brugman herself has tried running, martial arts, going the movies, team-based puzzle competitions, hiking, and camping.

She also has been involved in leadership roles with AGU and ASU, serving as the student representative to AGU’s Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology section, and on the AGU Student and Early Career Scientist Conference planning committee. At ASU, she is the co-chair of the school’s Women in Science Program and has served as a member of the school’s Graduate Council for three years.

While she’ll be working throughout the summer, Brugman’s plans for the fall 2018 semester include a trip to Singapore to work on a project at the Earth Observatory, where researchers are learning to better understand how our dynamic planet works and finding solutions to create safer and more sustainable societies. 

We hope to catch up with Brugman in a future segment to learn more about this trip and her plans for the future as she continues her doctoral studies at ASU. 

Above Image: Kara Brugman during the AGU Chapman Conference in Chile, holding a piece of felsic rock with a quenched mafic inclusion. A mafic inclusion is a blob of magma with a more primitive composition that was incorporated into a more evolved host magma and quickly cooled (quenched) upon mixing. Studying these inclusions can give us information about how and when different pockets of magma interacted. Photo Credit: Kathy Cashman.