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Why student research, internships matter

March 18, 2014
Kendle Fraley

Kendle Fraley

NIU alumnus Kendle Fraley and his former adviser, geology professor Mark Frank, published research together this month in the journal, Economic Geology.

It’s just one accomplishment of many for Fraley, who earned his bachelor’s (2009) and master’s degrees (2012) in geology and environmental geosciences.

He’s a prime example of what President Doug Baker terms “student career success,” having parlayed his experiences and opportunities at NIU into working-world achievements.

The newly published research is based on Fraley’s master’s thesis.

Through experiments done at NIU, Fraley and Frank determined constraints on the physical chemistry of gold at high temperatures and pressures. The research can be used in the exploration of gold-bearing ore deposits.

“This is the most important peer-reviewed journal in the economic geology community,” Frank says. “The work has received high praise in both academic and corporate circles.”

Fraley immersed himself in student research even as an undergraduate, participating in NIU’s Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program.

As a graduate student, his thesis project required him to master a wide variety of analytical and hands-on scientific skills, ranging from soldering platinum capsules, to operating and troubleshooting the geology department’s electron microprobe, to running high pressure and temperature tube furnaces.

This broad background led to an internship in Winnemucca, Nev., with Barrick Gold Corp., the world’s biggest gold miner by production. He was offered a job with the company following graduation.

Kendle Fraley“As an intern, I participated in many of the same job tasks a starting geologist would, including logging core and cuttings, cross-section interpretation, data validation and geochemical modeling,” Fraley says.

He also presented his work to senior staff members and corporate leaders at the company internship convention. And his persistence, both in successfully landing the internship and making the most of the experience, paid off.

“I knew I had to get my foot in the door with an internship to be successful in acquiring a job,” Fraley says. “Mark pointed me in the direction to achieve this, but my determination and networking ultimately landed me my internship. Students need to pursue career opportunities while they are still in school. Employers want motivated, determined applicants.”

Fraley adds that he’s grateful for the strong foundation he built at NIU.

“My education did not teach me how to complete my daily job tasks; instead I learned how to think critically, communicate and quickly evaluate information to make effective decisions,” he says. “These skills have been recognized by senior management and will help fast track my career into a leadership position.”