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Researcher of the Year Award: Richard Fluegeman

 

While he began his career working in the
petroleum industry, Richard Fluegeman knew he wanted to teach at the university level.

A dedicated professor and diligent researcher with an impressive record of funded grants, Richard Fluegeman continually finds new ways to bring research and laboratory opportunities into his geology classroom.

Fluegeman's work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Chemical Society, and Seismic Micro-Technology, Inc. In 2008, with colleagues in his department, he secured a $100,000 award from NSF for a tabletop scanning electron microscope (SEM) for the Department of Geological Sciences. The microscope is perfectly suited to the unique needs of the department, which formerly shared the use of a less specialized microscope with other disciplines. The acquisition of the new microscope has opened up possibilities for student and faculty research and learning opportunities in biostratigraphy and other areas of the geosciences. The instrument will enable answering a wide variety of geological and environmental science questions.  

Fluegeman also has dedicated much of his time to helping students acquire lab experience. “We have a wonderful laboratory here at Ball State,” says Fluegeman. And he makes the most of it. One assignment Fluegeman often gives his students is to solve a real geological problem in the lab without any help from him. This use of Ball State’s facilities and participation in immersive learning activities has produced several projects that students have presented at national meetings.

Researching Climate Change
In addition to teaching a full load of courses each semester, Fluegeman has found creative ways to pursue his own research endeavors and publish his results in leading peer-reviewed journals. “Sometimes I use my vacation time to get some work done,” he says. “Other times I’ll take a weekend trip to the Gulf Coast to take a few samples.”

 Fluegeman and his colleagues secured funding for this state-of-the-art tabletop SEM.

As part of his research on climate change, Fluegeman has been gathering samples of earth containing fossilized microscopic invertebrates along the Gulf Coastal Plane in Alabama and Mississippi. He collects samples at various intervals and correlates them to a standard time scale, which determines the age of the rocks. He then looks at the fossils as a whole to determine the conditions at the surface or bottom of the water during that time. By comparing these samples to others found in different areas, he can obtain a record of the conditions during that time and find any patterns that exist. 

According to Fluegeman, finding patterns and identifying reasons behind climate changes that occurred 50 million years ago can help us deal with the current climate changes we are facing today. “Hopefully, from the past, we can learn something about the changes that occur with a warming Earth,” he says. 

 

Fluegeman has traveled throughout the world collecting samples for his research on climate change.

An Exemplary Academic Professional

Over the course of his career, Fluegeman has presented at more than 55 regional, national, and international conferences. He has also represented the Department of Geological Sciences and Ball State at the prestigious Penrose Conferences, which are sponsored by the Geological Society of America. With only 50–75 invited attendees at the Penrose Conferences, Fluegeman’s inclusion in these meetings is a true representation of his reputation and impressive accomplishments.

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