Geology major Hayden Backus receives prestigious DOE fellowship

Roger Coda
Hayden Backus at the scanning electron microscope (SEM) in Houghton Hall

Hayden Backus, at the scanning electron microscope (SEM), equipped with an energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy detector (EDS), in Houghton Hall.

Hayden Backus, a senior Geology major from Westfield, NY, has been awarded a prestigious Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

This summer, Mr. Backus will be a research associate at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, WV, a U.S. national laboratory under the DOE.

“I will be constructing a detailed description of wells previously drilled to target gas. I will be characterizing lithology information, geological formations and geochemical data to understand depositional environments and local controls on rare earth element/critical mineral enrichments and carbon storage,” Backus explained.

The MLEF Program is a 10-week summer research internship for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM majors and enables participants to conduct cutting-edge research at one of the DOE’s national laboratories or the headquarters. During the appointment, fellows receive a weekly stipend, and may be eligible to receive travel and housing assistance.

There is a SUNY Fredonia connection to the prestigious fellowship. Alumnus Reginal Spiller, one of this year’s Commencement keynote speakers, was a co-founder of the award while working at the U.S. Department of Energy. The fellowship has placed over 1,000 students into national lab internships.

During his time at Fredonia, Backus has presented his research on the geochronology of the roots of the billion-year-old Grenville Mountains (eastern North America) with Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Wentao Cao at a sectional meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Backus also participated in a stream restoration monitoring project and a GIS-based predictive modeling project of soil loss around the Village of Fredonia’s reservoir, supervised by Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Matthew Purtill. In addition, he has played a key role in refining thin-section making procedures in the renovated rock preparation room in Houghton Hall.

All these experiences have given Backus the tools he will need in his next role. 

Following the DOE fellowship, Hayden will work in the field of geology until the fall of 2025, when he plans to pursue a master’s degree.

As Backus, a 2020 graduate of Westfield Academy and Central School, noted, “I will be using skills that I have developed at SUNY Fredonia such as use of X-ray fluorescence and stratigraphic analysis to facilitate this research.”

While at SUNY Fredonia, Backus was the recipient of eight scholarships established through Fredonia College Foundation funds including the Kent L. Knappenberger Scholarship Fund, Samuel F. Nixon Memorial Scholarship, Walther M. Barnard Geoscience Lab Scholarship, Mark and April Hoefner Orgren Scholarship, John H. Barnes ʼ68 Mineralogy Scholarship, Guertin/Hite Scholarship, Susan J. Mara Scholarship, and the David and Carol Larson Field Camp Scholarship.

Backus also received the Dean’s Scholar Award, a state scholarship.

“I am extremely grateful for the dedication of my professors and I praise God for the opportunities and support that I have had thus far,” Backus said.

You May Also Like

SUNY Fredonia Commencement on Saturday

Marketing and Communications staff

Commencement 2024 at SUNY Fredonia will include ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, in the Steele Hall arena, combining undergraduate and master’s degree and advanced certificate graduates.


Jazz Flextet wins DownBeat Magazine’s celebrated Student Music Award

Roger Coda

The already high standing of SUNY Fredonia’s Jazz Studies program in DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards competition has reached a crescendo with the Jazz Flextet winning the outright Student Music Award in the Undergraduate Pop/Rock/Blues Group.