Department News

OSLThanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the department has established a Laboratory for the Analysis and Dating of Sediments (LADS).  

Using a new tool called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL), which can determine when sediments were last exposed to sunlight, LADS will allow Stony Brook faculty and students researchers to date specific subsurface layers of Long Island. The information gained through this process will provide new insight into geological and environmental questions that would otherwise be impossible to answer.  “LADS will help provide a better understanding of how Long Island was formed by glaciers and sediments associated with them and how it responds to climate change,” said Dan M. Davis, professor and, chair of the Department of Geosciences.  More information can be found at Stony Brook Matters.


South PoleStony Brook Geosciences going Far Beyond: Newest faculty member  Weisen Shen's seismological research takes him to the South Pole.

The newest member of the Geosciences faculty, Dr. Weisen Shen, will arrive in Stony Brook for the start of the spring 2018 semester.  Dr. Shen comes to us from Washington University in St. Louis where he has been a postdoctoral research associate since completing his Ph.D. in geophysics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Professor Shen’s seismological research includes theoretical and computational work that is breaking new ground in using surface wave data to explore the structure of the Earth's crust and upper mantle.  He is, however, also an observational seismologist, gathering field data to reveal the structure of the lithosphere in North America and east Asia. His work also brings him to Antarctica, where his pioneering new methods have resulted in stunning results that are leading to new understanding of that continent's crustal thermal structure.  He truly is taking Stony Brook’s geophysical research Far Beyond!

Reeder 1

Richard J. Reeder appointed as Vice President for Research and Operations Manager

Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD has announced that he is appointing Richard J. Reeder as Vice President for Research and Operations Manager for the Research Foundation at Stony Brook University.  In this role, he will oversee the Stony Brook research enterprise.  Rich joined Stony Brook's Geosciences Department in 1980 as a faculty member. More information can be found at the Stony Brook Newsroom



Hurowitz 1Mars Rover reveals ancient lake with properties common to those on Earth

New findings based on NASA’s Curiosity rover mission reveal that an ancient lake in Gale Crater on Mars had chemical and physical properties very similar to those common to lakes on Earth. The study, led by Stony Brook University geoscientist Joel Hurowitz, PhD, published in Science, provides evidence that there were multiple environments in the lake that could have supported life.  Additional details can be found at University News.


McLennan 1Scott McLennan named Distinguished Professor

The State University of New York Board of Trustees named seven faculty members from Stony Brook University as Distinguished Faculty, SUNY’s highest honor.  Among those named as Distinguished Professors was Scott McLennan. The Distinguished Professorship is given to individuals who have achieved national or international prominence and a distinguished reputation within a chosen field. This distinction is attained through significant contributions to the research literature or through artistic performance or achievement in the case of the arts. The candidate’s work must be of such character that the individual’s presence will tend to elevate the standards of scholarship of colleagues both within and beyond these persons’ academic fields. Congratulations Scott!  Additional details can be found at SBU Happenings.  

Barbara CohenBarbara Cohen has been named to leadership position for Mars Exploration Rovers

Barbara Cohen (B.S., Geology, 1993) was recently named Associate Principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover (Opportunity) mission. She has been on the science team for that mission since 2005 but is now taking on one of the mission’s leadership roles.  Barbara, who went from Stony Brook to the University of Arizona for her PhD, leads the planetary science group at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.  She is also on the science team of the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), is Principal Investigator for the upcoming Lunar Flashlight mission (2018) and has had an asteroid named in her honor (6816Barbcohen). If you want to read more about Barbara’s career, go to:

Melissa Sims

Melissa Sims chosen to Introduce U.S. Secretary of Energy at NSLS-II Dedication

Geosciences PhD student, Melissa Sims, recently presented her thesis to the Research Foundation Board of Directors during their recent visit to Brookhaven National Laboratory.  Melissa's presentation made such an impression, that she was invited to introduce U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, at the dedication of the National Synchotron Light Source (NSLS-II) at BNL.  Further details are provided at the SBU Graduate School News page and the BNL Newsroom

Liebermann Head Shot

Celebrating Robert Cooper Liebermann

On October 3, 2014, the Department of Geosciences hosted 'Bobtoberfest', a celebration of Bob Liebermann's career, achievements, and lasting influence on succeeding generations of geoscientists.  The events honoring Bob, who retired at the start of the current academic year, were attended by faculty, staff, students and researchers from Geosciences and the Mineral Physics Institute.  We were especially pleased that Bob's wife Barbara and their three children were able to take part, along with two generations of his academic 'children' (former and current students, as well as others he has mentored over the years).  We are pleased to present here a selection of presentations and other memorabilia from that event.



Professor Joel Hurowitz named Deputy PI for Mars 2020 Rover Instrument

On July 31st, 2014 NASA announced the selection of scientific instruments for the Mars 2020 rover.  Among the instruments selected was the Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), for which Joel Hurowitz, a newly appointed Assistant Professor, is Deputy Principal Investigator.  The instrument will be built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA and Prof. Hurowitz expects the PIXL project to enable cutting edge training for the next generation of planetary scientists at Stony Brook.  Further details are provided at the University's News page. 

Yuyan Zhao PhD Student Yuyan (Sara) Zhao Selected for Prestigious Dwornik Award 

Sara Zhao has won a Stephen E. Dwornik Planetary Geoscience Student Paper Award for her poster "Photochemical influences on bromine and chlorine geochemistry on the Martian surface" delivered at the 45th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March of this year.  The Dwornik Award, offered by the Planetary Geology Division of GSA, is considered one of the most prestigious student awards in the planetary sciences. 

Glotch - Moon Professor Timothy Glotch to lead NASA funded research team

Professor Glotch has been selected to lead one of nine research teams participating in the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) that will bring researchers together in a virtual setting to focus on questions concerning space science and human space exploration.  Further details are provided at the University's News page.

Schoonen ESD at BNL Professor Martin Schoonen named Chairman of the Environmental Sciences Department at BNL

Professor Schoonen has been named Chairman of the Environmental Sciences Department (ESD) at BNL effective June 1, 2013.  An interdisciplinary scientist, Martin Schoonen has also served in several administrative positions at Stony Brook, developed large-scale, multidisciplinary proposals and leading multidisciplinary research programs.  He will maintain his affiliation with Stony Brook, working under a joint SBU/BNL appointment.  


Oganov-Parise Professors John Parise and Artem Oganov pursue Materials Genome Initiative

Professors John Parise and Artem Oganov received a major grant from NSF aimed to accelerate the transition from discovery to application for high pressure materials.  The collaboration includes Professor Alexander Orlov, Materials Science.  


Rogers Professor Deanne Rogers finds evidence for past groundwater on Mars

Assistant Professor Deanne Rogers is part of the team that reported findings in Nature Geoscience supporting the past existence of groundwater on Mars.  These results represent some of the strongest evidence that Mars could have supported life in the past.  


Liebermann Flinn AwardProfessor Robert Liebermann accepts Edward A. Flinn Award

Distinguished Service Professor Robert C. Liebermann received the American Geophysical Union’s Edward A Flinn Award at the Society’s Fall 2012 meeting in San Francisco. This prestigious award recognizes individuals “who personify the Union’s motto ‘unselfish cooperation in research’ through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities.” Highly deserving of this recognition, Bob Liebermann’s long and distinguished research career has benefitted the international mineral physics community in countless ways. As a co-director of the Center for High-Pressure Research (CHiPR) at Stony Brook, Liebermann helped to introduce the new large-volume high-pressure technology developed in Japan to the United States. An entire generation of researchers using this new technology was trained through CHiPR at Stony Brook. Bob later served as President of the Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences (COMPRES), shortly after it was formed by the NSF. Under his energetic leadership as President of COMPRES from 2003-2010, Bob oversaw a roughly threefold increase in the size of the organization. He also enabled the successful operation of synchrotron beamlines for Earth sciences research, providing much needed infrastructure for the high-pressure community. During his long and highly productive career as a Professor at Stony Brook University, Bob has been especially supportive of students, young researchers, and research groups from across the world. Bob also made community-based resources available that would not have otherwise existed, and organized educational outreach opportunities to open up new research opportunities to the broadest possible audience. The Department is delighted to count Bob as one of our long-time faculty. Professor Scott McLennan selected for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Team

Geosciences Professor Scott McLennan has been selected by NASA as a Participating Scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory rover mission. The MSL rover, Curiosity, is scheduled to land on August 5, 2012 in Gale Crater on Mars to begin a two-year primary mission exploring ancient sedimentary deposits to help determine if Mars was ever able to support life. During the first three months of the landed mission, Professor McLennan will be at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, where the science and engineering team will operate the rover on “Mars time”. The 900 kilogram Curiosity rover is much larger and more capable than the very successful Mars Exploration Rover twins Spirit and Opportunity that landed on Mars in 2004. Professor McLennan has been a member of the Mars Exploration Rover science team since 2002 and was also a participating scientist on the Mars Odyssey orbiter’s gamma-ray spectrometer experiment.

glotch Professor Timothy Glotch receives NSF CAREER award  

Associate Professor Tim Glotch was selected to receive the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for young faculty, the CAREER award. The award comes with a five-year grant totaling nearly one-half million dollars. The project, “Fundamental Measurements of Mineral Optical Properties and Theoretical Treatment of Light Scattering at Infrared Wavelengths,” will provide an experimental foundation for Dr. Glotch’s research focused on analyzing the mineral types on the surfaces of Mars and the Moon.

McKubbinGeosciences PhD Francis McCubbin receives Presidential Early Career Award

Francis McCubbin (PhD ‘09) was named one of 96 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This award represents "the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers." Francis is currently Senior Staff Scientist at the Institute of Meteoritics and Research Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico. At Stony Brook, Francis worked with Prof. Hanna Nekvasil on water in lunar apatites. Professor Scott McLennan on NASA team that finds new evidence for water at Mars crater.

Geochemist Scott McLennan is a member of the team that recently reported new findings from the Mars Rover ‘Opportunity’ demonstrating that a site in the Endeavour Crater on Mars shows evidence to support the past existence of liquid water. The findings were reported in the May 4, 2012, issue of Science. Scott has been a member of the Mars Rover science team since its inception in 2004. The latest findings follow other reports showing that water existed in Mars’ past. 



holt photoghosh photo

Geoscience Researchers Develop Numerical Model to Better Forecast Forces Behind Earthquakes     

Geosciences postdoctoral fellow Dr. Attreyee Ghosh and Prof. William Holt have devised a numerical model describing the tectonic forces responsible for earthquakes. Their research findings were published in the Feb. 17, 2012, issue of the journal Science. The model points to improvements for long-term forecasting of earthquakes. Detailed reports of their findings are presented by Science Daily and Our Amazing Planet.  

Don Weidner 2011

Professor Don Weidner selected to receive Inge Lehmann Medal for 2011

The American Geophysical Union has announced that the 2011 Inge Lehmann Medal will be awarded to Stony Brook University's Donald J. Weidner, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the Department of Geosciences. Awarded once every two years, the medal recognizes "outstanding contributions to the understanding of the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth's mantle and core." 
"This is an exceptional achievement, and we are all proud and thrilled for Don," said Richard J. Reeder, Chair and Professor, Department of Geosciences and Director of the Center for Environmental Molecular Science at Stony Brook University. "Don has pioneered experimental studies of earth materials at extreme conditions and has served the geophysics and mineral physics communities through his leadership in developing synchrotron facilities at National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratories."
"I am humbled and honored by this prestigious award," said Dr. Weidner. "But at the end of the day, it recognizes not just me, but all the talented and dedicated people I work with at SBU. This honor truly belongs to them." Dr. Weidner's research focuses on the materials that make up the Earth, in order to understand the state and evolution of the planet. His team studies the properties at the high pressures and temperatures that are presumed to exist deep in the Earth, using tools such as synchrotrons to gather information about the minerals in the high pressure devices. "Ultimately, we hope to gain information about plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes—while understanding the chemical make-up of the Earth," notes Dr. Weidner.

Schoonen Friedlander

Geoscience researchers find that natural minerals disinfect drinking water

Lonia Friedlander (right), Professor David Thanassi (center), and Professor Martin Schoonen (left) revealed the effect of minerals in water disinfection.

Iron-bearing minerals can disinfect drinking water; that is the conclusion of research conducted by Geosciences graduate student Lonia Friedlander. Lonia, working in collaboration with Professor Martin Schoonen in the Department of Geosciences and Professors David Thanassi and Wali Karzai and graduate student Neha Puri in the Center for Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook University, showed that adding pyrite to water containing E. coli leads to the rapid elimination of the bacteria.
Enterotoxigenic E. coli causes an estimated 1.5 million deaths per year among children in developing countries. Within four hours of addition, acid-treated pyrite eliminates 99% of the original bacterial population. The study builds on work in Schoonen's group that has shown that specific mineral slurries spontaneously generate hydroxyl radicals, which degrade biomolecules and may contribute to the elimination of E. coli.
The research team hopes that their work can be applied to develop low-cost, low-tech water treatment techniques for improving the safety of drinking water in developing countries. They plan to expand their experiments to other common iron-bearing minerals and rocks as well as other strains of waterborne bacteria, such as Salmonella. Lonia's work was inspired by an earlier field study in Tanzania by Geosciences graduate student Robert Wallace (MS'10), whose field study was supported by the David E. King Field Work Award. While the primary objective of the research is to develop a method to disinfect drinking water in developing countries, a mineral-based disinfection method may also be useful in eliminating pathogenic bacteria from feedlot runoff. The team has filed a Technology Disclosure with the Stony Brook Research Foundation and is preparing a manuscript to report the work.


Turn Left at Orion 4th Ed

Professor Dan Davis Publishes 4th Edition of "Turn Left at Orion"

Professor Dan Davis of the Geosciences Department at SBU and Guy Consolmagno, S.J., of the Vatican Observatory will release the 4th Edition of "Turn Left at Orion", published by Cambridge University Press. This new edition revisits the sky with a Dobsonian telescope. 







Stony Brook PhD and Faculty Advisor Show that the Moon Isn't as Dry as Previously Thought

Research findings of Stony Brook PhD Francis McCubbin and his faculty advisor, Prof. Hanna Nekvasil, show that the mineral apatite in lunar rocks contains hundreds to thousands of parts per million H2O in its structure. These results demonstrate that the Moon's interior contained significantly more water than previously thought, likely dating back to its origin. These novel findings are forcing planetary scientists to re-evaluate the long-held view of the Moon as a dry body and to develop a new paradigm for lunar formation and evolution. The findings were published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June 2010.
The research was performed by McCubbin at the Geophysical Laboratory inWashingtonDC, where he was a postdoctoral fellow. However, the initial investigation was begun by McCubbin during his PhD research at Stony Brook under the direction of Prof. Hanna Nekvasil, co-author of the report.


Deanne Rogers

The Geosciences Department Welcomes Assistant Professor Deanne Rogers

Deanne Rogers, whose research interests include planetary surface processes; remote sensing of planetary surfaces; laboratory spectroscopic studies of relevant planetary analog materials; environmental remote sensing; and spectral and thermophysical studies of planetary analog sites on Earth, is our newest faculty member. Please see Professor Rogers' research page here.





Jerrome Varriale

Jerrome Varriale, Geosciences Major, Named URECA Researcher of the Month

In spring 2010 Jerome joined the Vibrational Spectroscopy Laboratory of Prof. Timothy Glotch, and in April had amassed enough data to present a poster, "Thermal emission spectroscopy of volcanic rocks from Mauna Iki, Hawaii" at the annual campus-wide URECA poster symposium (April 2011). This summer, Jerome's research on infrared emissivity spectra of rock samples is supported by URECA. Using spectral deconvolution models to analyze the data and determine the mineralogy of volcanic rock samples from Hawaii, Jerome is now comparing laboratory and remote sensing data to further our understanding of the role of alteration coatings on the samples, and more generally, our understanding of the reliability of remotely acquired infrared spectra. 


Planetary Crusts

Scott McLennan's book Planetary Crusts: Their Composition, Origin and Evolution receives Best Reference Work Award

'Rarely does one find a book which truly examines in detail the subject of comparative planetology. This is just such a book. ... an excellent starting point to delve deeper into the specific subject. ... In summary this is a unique book, addressing for the first time the subject of planetary crusts from a comparative point of view in a clear and thorough manner; I recommend it to students and specialists alike.' Planetary and Space Science

'In conclusion, Planetary Crusts: Their Composition, Origin and Evolution is a well-written and researched book that would complement the library of any crustal scientist, graduate-level student studying planets, or a person curious as to how planets and their crusts came about.' The Meteoritical Society

'... a comprehensive description and insightful discussion of virtually all salient aspects of the formation and the evolution of planets and their interiors.' Nature Geoscience


Glotch head shot

Tim Glotch Discovers New Type of Rock Surface on Moon

Using data from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer, an instrument uniquely capable of identifying common lunar silicate minerals, scientists at Stony Brook University in New York and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have found previously unseen compositional differences in the crustal highlands of the Moon, and have confirmed the presence of anomalously silica-rich material in five distinct regions.

"In layman's terms, we have discovered a new and fundamentally different type of rock on the Moon," declares Dr. Timothy Glotch, assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook and lead author of one of two papers on the research in this week's issue of Science. "For decades, we've recognized that these spots in the crustal highlands of the Moon are different. Now we have the evidence. The Moon is more geologically complex than previously thought, and we now have to refine our ideas about its formation."

Every mineral, and therefore every rock, absorbs and emits energy with a unique spectral signature that can be measured to reveal its identity. For the first time, the Diviner Lunar Radiometer is providing scientists with global, high-resolution infrared maps of the Moon, which are enabling them to make a definitive identification of silicates commonly found within its crust. 


John Parise

John Parise Appointed Distinguished Professor

John Parise, Professor in the Departments of Geosciences and Chemistry, has been appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor by the State University of New York. Parise was one of six SUNY professors approved for appointment to Distinguished Professor, one of the highest rankings bestowed by SUNY and Stony Brook’s highest faculty designation.

Parise’s research during the past 28 years, has earned him the highest level of international prominence within the closely linked communities of crystallography, mineral physics, and solid state chemistry. His success in continually raising the standards of research has garnered him key leadership positions in community-wide development of new experimental facilities, most notably at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; at the joint Photon Science Institute, sponsored by New York State and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL); and at the National Synchrotron Light Source II, now under construction at BNL.

“I am honored to be awarded this distinction,” said Parise. “This designation is profound, and I invite the many students and post-docs who have been my collaborators, and my many colleagues on joint grants from the Department of Chemistry and Brookhaven National Laboratory, to share in this honor.”



Katherine Schwarting, Undergraduate Geosciences Major, Named URECA Researcher of the Month

When Katherine was given the opportunity to start doing research in 2009, after taking a remote sensing class with Professor Deanne Rogers, she immediately volunteered. And so, for the past year, Katherine has been working with her mentor, Professor Deanne Rogers, on a project that involves "Characterizing Vegetation Abundance Trends during 2000-2009 in the Long Island Pine Barrens using Remote Sensing and Meteorological Station Data"— a project that draws heavily on visual interpretation as well as data analysis. The investigation uses the Moderate Resolution Imaging System (MODIS) sensor aboard the Earth Observing System Terra satellite to obtain the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), an estimate of vegetation canopy density and health for the region. The analysis showed a negative correlation between vegetation abundance and nighttime surface temperatures. This past April, Katherine presented her findings on the project at the Long Island Geosciences Conference, as well as at the on-campus URECA Celebration. This summer, Katherine will continue her work with Prof. Rogers on the Long Island Pine Barrens vegetation abundance project, with support from URECA: she will be expanding on the previous work she started last summer by examining a longer time scale, enhancing the precision of variables, and incorporating other factors which affect NDVI data. 




News & Announcements

Geosciences Seminar

Geosciences Department Newsletter


Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the department has established a Laboratory for the Analysis and Dating of Sediments. 

Stony Brook Geosciences going Far Beyond: Newest Department of Geosciences faculty member Weisen Shen's seismological research takes him to the South Pole.

Richard Reeder named Vice President for Research and Operations Manager

Mars Rover collects exciting evidence from Gale Crater

Congratulations to Scott McLennan who was named Distinguished Professor

Funding Opportunity for MS applicants interested in Instrumentation

Geosciences alum Barbara Cohen named to leadership position for Mars Exploration Rovers 

Q & A with Geosciences Graduate Student Steven Jaret as he prepares for the International FameLab national finals in Washington D.C. 

Geosciences Graduate Students bring hands-on Science education to area elementary schools

Melissa Sims chosen to introduce Secretary of Energy at NSLS-II Dedication

Celebrating Robert Cooper Liebermann

Professor Joel Hurowitz named Deputy PI for Mars 2020 Rover Instrument

PhD Student Yuyan (Sara) Zhao selected for Prestigious Dwornik Award

Professor Timothy Glotch to lead NASA funded research team

Professor Martin Schoonen named Chairman of the Environmental Sciences Department at BNL

Professors John Parise and Artem Oganov pursue Materials Genome Initiative

Professor Deanne Rogers finds evidence for past groundwater on Mars

Professor Robert Liebermann accepts Edward A. Flinn Award

Professor Scott McLennan selected for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Team

Professor Timothy Glotch receives NSF Career Award

Geosciences PhD Francis McCubbin receives Presidential Early Career Award

Professor Scott McLennan on NASA team that finds new evidence for water at Mars crater

Geoscience Researchers Develop Numerical Model to Better Forecast Forces Behind Earthquakes 

Geoscience Professor Don Weidner selected to receive Inge Lehman Medal

Geoscience researchers find that natural minerals disinfect drinking water

Professor Dan Davis publishes 4th edition of "Turn Left at Orion"

Stony Brook PhD and Faculty Advisor Show that the Moon Isn't as Dry as Previously Thought

The Department welcomes its new faculty member, Deanne Rogers

Jerome Varriale, Geosciences major, Named URECA Researcher of the Month  


Department of Geosciences - Earth and Space Science Building, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2100  Phone: (631) 632-8200
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