Peruvian student conducts research at ISU

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
March 19, 2012

Jorge Cardich's first day in the United States happened to be the same day as one of the most celebrated sporting events in the United States - the Super Bowl.

And then he slept through kickoff.

"I was really tired from the travel and I fell asleep. The game had started and then I realized ‘Oh no, the game!'" said Cardich.

He watched the game with new friends from Indiana State University.

"I like how people celebrate the Super Bowl, even though neither of the teams were from Indiana," said Cardich, a bit puzzled. "In Peru, it wouldn't happen," he said with a laugh.

Cardich, a graduate student at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru, travelled to Indiana State to study benthic foraminifera, a tiny single-celled creature that lives in the ocean, with Indiana State Professor of Geology Tony Rathburn.

"Although they are only the size of a grain of sand, benthic foraminifera are among the most abundant organisms in the deep sea," said Rathburn.

While the organisms are abundant, the scientists who study them are not.

"There are very few people in South America that work on benthic foraminifera," said Rathburn, Jorge's mentor at ISU.

Jorge agreed, noting that he is one of only two or three scientists who study the shelled organism in Peru. "We are really rare," he said.

Cardich travelled to ISU to learn research techniques, conduct geochemical analysis and discuss results with Rathburn, who has worked extensively with the organism.

"I am very lucky to have Dr. Rathburn as an advisor," said Cardich.

The two met at an international conference in Germany about benthic foraminifera, which although tiny, holds valuable information. Due to their excellent fossil record, the single-celled organisms provide insight into the history of environmental change, explained Rathburn.

"Much of our understanding of how the oceans and climate has changed through time is based on information from fossil foraminifera," said Rathburn. "An understanding of how modern foraminifera respond to changes in environmental conditions makes it possible to accurately interpret the fossil record of environmental change."

That's exactly what Cardich is doing -conducting research to better understand the organism's relationship with the environment.

"I came here to learn," said Cardich. "And to have a good time."

Cardich went snowboarding for the first time and returned a bit sore.

"But it was, really, really, really fun."

Cardich went with his roommates, who are students at ISU.

"I have a great time with them, they are great," said Cardich, adding that meeting people has been his favorite aspect of the visit.

After his month in the states is over, Jorge plans to return to Peru. But it may not be the last time he visits Terre Haute.

After completing his master's degree in Peru this June, Cardich plans to continue studying benthic foraminifera as part of his doctorate degree.

"I was thinking I might study here, because there are specialists like Dr. Rathburn," he said. "I like the program you have here. The students have great opportunities," he said.

He said he is also considering studying in Germany or other sites in Europe.

Regardless of where he ends up, Cardich will certainly be studying the tiny creature.

"I have fallen in love with benthic foraminifera," said Cardich.

And he has certainly made his mark at ISU.

"Our students have not only learned about foraminifera from the Peruvian margin, but have also learned more about Peruvian culture from Jorge," said Rathburn. "Visits like these are mutually beneficial for the visitor as well as for ISU students."

Photo:http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-z65kwPV/0/L/i-z65kwPV-L.jpgJorge Cardich and Tony Rathburn in Indiana State's Science Building. ISU/Courtesy Photo

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-nvsCTRV/0/L/i-nvsCTRV-L.jpgJorge Cardich studies foraminifera with the aid of a microscope. ISU/Courtesy photo

Contact: Tony Rathburn, professor of geology, Indiana State University, at 812-237-2269 or Tony.Rathburn@indstate.edu

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, ISU Communications and Marketing, at 812-237-3773