Of the 20 or so colleges or universities that offer a degree in geological engineering, the University of Mississippi has the distinction of offering the only one in both Mississippi and in the Southeast region. Because of the rarity of the major, students from far and wide enroll here to earn the degree.
Peshani Herath came from only minutes away.
The Oxford native, who is a senior with a double major in physics, chose to enroll after meeting with faculty and receiving a full scholarship package. Herath said her experience in the department has been a most positive one over the past five years.
“Dr. (Louis) Zachos (assistant professor of geology and geological engineering) has been a wonderful adviser, and he has gone out of his way to help me with my senior design project and my honors thesis,” she said. “Dr. (Terry) Panhorst (assistant professor emeritus of geology and geological engineering) has taught me the most. He is an excellent teacher and manages to make the subject material very interesting. He really cares about students and is willing to listen and give valuable advice.”
During the summers of 2013 and 2014, Herath served as an intern with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. While there, she learned a great deal about how projects work on the management level in addition to interacting with top scientists and engineers.
“It was wonderful to observe and learn from the staff at Goddard,” Herath said. “I was able to work with people who worked on the Curiosity rover. Some of the research that I was doing will be part of future missions.”
Herath is working on her honors senior thesis with Craig Hickey, associate professor of geology and physics in UM’s National Center for Physical Acoustics. They are collaborating on a project focusing on the liquefaction potential of northern Mississippi during earthquakes.
“I will be doing seismic tests in several locations in the area, and this data will be analyzed using MatLab code and other seismic programs,” Herath said. “This is an alternative method to digging boreholes, and the results will be compared to those from previous methods.”
She also completed her senior design project last spring, when she was part of a group that completed their own assessments and facility design for a water supplying company. After reviewing bore hole data near Carlsbad, New Mexico, they designed a water storage facility and outlined the operations during the company’s lifetime.
Herath has served as a teaching assistant in the geological engineering department. She will graduate as a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and has been selected for membership in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and Sigma Pi Sigma physics honor society. She was also nominated for the School of Engineering’s Outstanding Senior Leadership Award and was selected for Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.
Upon graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to study tectonics with an emphasis on structure. She also plans to become a certified geologist focusing on field studies.
Courtesy of Ryan Upshaw UM School of Engineering and the Ole Miss News Desk