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Bren Cable

How OU senior Bren Cable travels through time with her research in Tanzania, Africa

Bren Cable
Class of 2022, Environmental Geology
Hometown: McAlester, Oklahoma

Bren Cable, an OU senior studying environmental geology, has found a way to balance her academic work, passions, and undergraduate research. Since her first year at OU, Bren has been involved with the student organization Pick and Hammer Club, a geology club that raises awareness of the importance of geology and geophysics in society.

During her time with the club, she has served as an outreach officer and president, and now as an archivist. Through Pick and Hammer, Bren found the opportunity to expand her interests on a global scale and travel to Africa to continue her research as an undergraduate research assistant.

"Sediment tells a timeline. If I could have a superpower, it would be to manipulate time. So, I find it very exciting to look through time by analyzing the mud. It’s my own little way of time traveling."

Q: What is your work like as an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Oklahoma?

Bren: I began working for OU’s Associate Professor of Geosciences Michael Soreghan in September 2018, in my first semester as a freshman. I worked on grain size analysis, where I measured samples of mud collected from a core out of Lake Tanganyika, a lake in Tanzania that is a major protein supply for five surrounding countries. I weighed the samples, and then freeze-dried and weighed the samples again to measure the sediment weight without water. Then I treated the samples with three chemicals to isolate the grains, and weighed again to find how much organic matter was removed. Once I completed this and collected the data, Michael helped me create a Poster, which I presented at the 2019 OU Student Spring Break Expo.

I continued working with Michael on the Tanzania research, and in summer 2021, we both traveled to Tanzania. While there, we worked on four projects. My projects included collecting water samples to chemically analyze. The point of my research is to find how human’s ability to change land has led to an increase of sediment washing into Lake Tanganyika. This sediment is destroying the habits of fish, and if left unattended, the lake could stop maintaining a stable ecosystem. This means the surrounding five countries would be hard-pressed for food.

Q: What interested you most about your research on clastic and chemical analysis of sediment from Lake Tanganyika and how did you find this opportunity?

Bren: I am most interested in the way sediment tells a timeline. If I could have a superpower, it would be to manipulate time. So, I find it very exciting to look through time by analyzing the mud. It’s my own little way of time traveling. I chose this opportunity because it basically presented itself. At the time, I had just finished the AT&T Summer Bridge Program, where they stressed the importance of undergraduate research. I received an email from Pick and Hammer which advertised an “Eat and Meet” over environmental research, and that is where I met Michael.

Q: What is your experience as a woman in STEM?

Bren: One of the best things is that there are so many scholarship opportunities, but despite this, women are still severely underrepresented in STEM. I encourage women in STEM to apply, apply, apply to scholarships!

Q: If you could give advice to prospective OU students looking to earn their degree at OU, what would you tell them?

Bren: Get over-involved freshman year. Join anything and everything that remotely piques your interest. Meet people anywhere you can. It might feel weird or uncomfortable at first, but the sooner you meet the people you actually like, the quicker you will make memories with them. Try out as many groups as possible, and then ask yourself the following: Did I like that group, the people, and what the club does?

Q: After you complete your undergrad degree at OU, what do you plan to do next?

Bren: After I graduate in May, I’ll move to Vermont for graduate school at the University of Vermont (UVM), where I’ll study geochemistry. Climate change is all too real to be ignored, and I hope I can make a positive impact with geosciences. The project I’ll be working on at UVM is called “Big Data,” and part of its mission is to educate people about geoscience and its growing importance.

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