Joel HurowitzJoel Hurowitz

Assistant Professor
Office: ESS 220
E-mail Address: joel.hurowitz "at" 

B.Sc., State University of New York at Albany, 1996
M.Sc., 2001: Earth and Space Sciences, Stony Brook University, 2001
Ph.D., 2006: Geosciences, Stony Brook University, 2006

Hydrogeologist, Leggette Brashears & Graham, Inc., 1996-1998
Caltech Postdoctoral Scholar at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2006-2007
Research Scientist, NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2007-2013
Research Scientist, Stony Brook University, 2013-2014

Current Research Projects:

  1. In-situ Exploration of the Surface of Mars: Observations by a veritable fleet of orbiters sent to Mars have been used to develop and refine hypotheses about how the Red Planet evolved from a more Earth-like state in its early history, to the cold desert world we observe today.  Testing these hypotheses requires close-up examination of the sedimentary rock record, which contains the clues needed to understand climate evolution on Mars. To that end, I am currently involved in two rover missions to the surface of Mars: I am the Deputy Principal Investigator for the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), which was selected by NASA to fly on the upcoming Mars 2020 Rover mission.  This project is based at the NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I am working with PIXL Principal Investigator Dr. Abigail Allwood to develop and test PIXL prototypes and the PIXL flight instrument for operation after landing on Mars, currently scheduled for the year 2021.  I am also a science team member on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover mission to Mars.  I am making use of geochemical and mineralogical data returned by Curiosity from investigation of the stratigraphic record of her landing site in Gale Crater to explore and understand the long-term evolution of Martian climate.
  2. Modeling the habitability of Martian near-surface water reservoirs: Orbital and in-situ data gathered from the Martian surface point to the existence of diverse and fascinating subsurface aqueous environments beneath the ubiquitous soil and dust cover that obscures much of Mars’ geological record.  Mineral detections hint at the existence of a new and relatively unstudied geochemical environment – Martian aquifer systems - whose interactions with the surface environment have left behind tantalizing mineralogical clues to its properties.  My research program makes use of reactive-transport modeling code, which can be used to construct a realistic model of water migration, mineral dissolution and precipitation, chemical transport, and water evaporation, to address key issues with respect to Martian subsurface and surface water chemistry.

  3. Basaltic Sedimentation in Analogue Terrains: On Earth, the geochemical and mineralogical composition of clastic sediments are dominated by inputs from the petrologically-evolved granodioritic upper continental crust and recycled sedimentary materials derived from this crust. A comprehensive understanding exists of the processes that influence the composition of sediments derived from felsic materials as they evolve from their source terrains, along transport pathways, to their sites of accumulation. In contrast, far fewer examples of sub-aerially exposed basaltic crust with extensively developed source-to sink sedimentary drainages exist on Earth. Outside of subaerial weathering of basalts, the processes and products of basaltic sedimentation have gone largely unstudied in the terrestrial geological record. As a result, we lack a suitable reference frame in which to place the Martian sedimentary rock record, which is dominated by first-cycle basaltic sources. We are working to build this reference frame through a field research program based in fluvial drainage systems in the Columbia River Basalt Group.  Our initial work in this area has been generously funded through an award to Stony Brook Ph.D. candidate Michael Thorpe from the David E. King Field Work Award. 

  4. The reactivity and toxicity of planetary regolith: Silicate minerals that have been mechanically pulverized by impact processes on planetary bodies have surfaces that are populated by broken, highly reactive, cation-oxygen bonds. These broken bonds generate reactive oxygen species (e.g., OH˙, O2˙-, and H2O2) and O2 when contacted by liquid water or water vapor.  The reactivity of quartz has been well studied by medical researchers and toxicologists, as it bears directly on the causes behind silicosis.  However, the reactivity of mineral phases on basaltic planetary bodies such as the Moon is little studied, and requires further exploration to assess the potential toxicity of planetary regolith to astronauts.  We are exploring this theme through the recently selected Stony Brook node of the Solar System Virtual Exploration and Research Institute (SSERVI), led by Professor Timothy Glotch.

News & Announcements

Geosciences Seminar

Geosciences Department Newsletter


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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