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Study Away

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Hawaiian Volcanism

hawaii lava flow


Watch for announcements about Winter 2015.

Study Away this winter in Hawaii where nature meets forensic materials science.


About the Program

Week one will focus on the formation a variety of volcanic rocks and the environmental conditions under which they form has on their structure and morphology. How does nature "select" how materials form? History surrounding the formation of the Hawaiian islands will be included as a prelude to the field laboratory experience. Typical techniques that can be used to characterize materials such as optical techniques, scanning electron microscopy, and energy dispersive spectroscopy will be introduced. Student teams will be formed.

In week two, the class will travel to Hawaii to harvest volcanic rock samples that have formed under different environmental conditions from a number of locations. Student teams will record the GPS and photographic data location of each sample. Daily review sessions for the teams will be carried out as a group to evaluate samples and plan the next day. Select locations may include, but are not limited to, volcanoes such as Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Haleakala, and Leahi. Additionally, locations such as Kalapana where blistering lava meets the sea will be toured. The collected volcanic samples from these sites will be transported to WKU for subsequent materials characterization back at the WKU NOVA Center.

In week three, the class will return with its samples. Samples will be prepared and studied in the Large Chamber Scanning Electron Microscope using a variety of materials characterization techniques. Included here will be the use of optical, scanning electron, and energy dispersive spectroscopy as the primary means of sample interrogation. Data analysis will be carried out to obtain a better understanding of the manner in which nature created these materials. Student teams will deliver oral presentations of their results


Learning Outcomes

This course will address General Education Goal 8: an understanding of the scientific method and knowledge of natural science and its relevance in our lives.

  • Discover nature influences the world around us in terms of the effect environment has on the formation of volcanic materials
  • Gain an artistic appreciation of the symmetry and/or asymmetry in these materials that nature provides.
  • Typical characterization techniques will be studied and utilized to accomplish these goals as we investigate the structure and morphology of these fundamental natural materials
  • Appropriate methods for sample collection, characterization, and data analysis will be learned. Oral presentation of results by student teams will be key to summarizing this experience.

diamond head



The Program Leaders may determine other eligibility requirements, but at a minimum, all applicants need to meet these requirements: 

  • Current WKU student eligible to register for WKU courses.
  • Students from outside WKU may participate as visiting students.
  • Good academic standing (Undergraduate Catalog p.27; Graduate Catalog p.30)
  • 18 years of age or older at time of departure
  • Parent/guardian permission for anyone under 18 at time of departure (see form)
  • No current disciplinary sanctions as verified by Judicial Affairs.
  • Full payment prior to departure.
  • Completion of all pre-departure orientations.
  • Permission of instructor.
  • Complete Study Away application


laa flow from sea

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Program Package

Included in Base Package

  • Undergraduate tuition for 3 credit hours ($1,090 value)
  • Nine nights accommodations in Hawaii
  • Airport transfer in Hawaii
  • Course-related ground transportation
  • Flight from Nashville to Hilo
  • Flight from Hilo to Honolulu
  • Flight from Honolulu

Excluded from Base Package
  • Items not explicitly list in package.
  • Transportation between your departure airport and your home.
  • Independent travel (non-program travel).
  • Meals, services, and beverages not included on-board or during course-related field programs.
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, phone service, and Internet access.
  • Tips for guides and drivers not included in program-related activity.
  • Travel cancellation/interruption insurance. Highly recommended.
  • Meals & Services and beverages not mentioned in the program
  • Baggage fees and costs associated with flight / program changes

Final program fee subject to change due to travel arrangements.


Logistical Considerations

  • Appropriate clothing for warm Hawaii weather, even in winter.
  • Program includes extensive walking and some hiking.
  • Appropriate footwear required.
  • The highest levels of professionalism are required for all participants.

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Planned Schedule -  (tentative)

January 9

Flight from Nashville, TN to Hilo, HI.

January 10

Volcano National Park.

January 11

Volcano National Park.

January 12

Site visit around island

January 13

Collect green and black sand beach samples.

January 14

Collect white sand samples. Discussion group

January 15

Travel from Kona to Honolulu. Hike Koko Trail

January 16

Hanamua Bay

January 17

Waimea Bay

January 18

Return to Nashville

The schedule is subject to change due to educational opportunities that may arise unexpectedly, the vagaries of weather, and other factors beyond the control of the course instructors and staff.

oahu from air 

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Contact Us about Application


  • PHYS 101

Program Leader


  • Hilo
  • Kona
  • Honolulu


  • Winter 2014


  • $3,200 - $3,699 (estimate)

Funding Options


  • Syllabus (tentative)
  • Minor permission form

 link to program details


Western Kentucky University and its associates are not responsible for any loss due to theft, personal injury, flight or weather delays, negligence, or default of suppliers, or suppliers changing of itineraries. They and their associates are not responsible for any loss due to travel/flight delays or changes in travel plans due to Acts of Nature or other unforeseen circumstances, nor are we responsible for accidents and medical care. Tour services are furnished by independent contractors who are not agents or servants of Western Kentucky University. Refunds are not available for unused portions of the package.


Contact us right away!

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 Last Modified 8/26/15