Close up photo of a rock

Close up photos of rocks such as basalt and granite take on a colorful form under the new petrographic microscopes.

Earlier this month, the UNI Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences installed brand-new petrographic microscopes in two of their labs, allowing students to study rocks and minerals in incredible detail.

A total of 28 new scopes were purchased using $150,000 in grant funding from the Carver Foundation and the UNI Foundation.

Kyle Gray, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, says the new scopes are a major upgrade for the department, which was previously using equipment dating as far back as 1968.

“The new scopes will make teaching much easier for faculty, and will give students a deeper look, and a more enriching educational experience both in the classroom and while doing research,” Gray said. “We have such an increased capability with these new scopes. We’re very excited to put them to use.”

Specifically, the scopes use polarized light to assist students in identifying different minerals through observing how they react to the light. In turn, this can help students understand the history of the rock specimen, including how and when it was formed.

The department will keep a number of the older, functioning scopes to use in intro labs, giving a greater number of students access to the equipment and further expanding the opportunities for learning within the department. 

“I would like to thank the Carver Foundation and the UNI Foundation for supporting Earth and Environmental Sciences at UNI,” Gray said. “These new scopes will provide many opportunities for students to learn and research.”