Areas of Emphasis in Graduate Study and Research at Stony Brook University

Planetary Geology
Research opportunities in planetary geology span several disciplines, including remote sensing, experimental and theoretical geochemistry, experimental petrology, laboratory spectroscopy, and theoretical light scattering studies. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding the magmatic evolution of Mars and the Moon and aqueous alteration of the Martian crust. Facilities and equipment available for pursuing planetary geology studies include a custom-built mid-IR emission spectrometer, a UV-visible-near-IR reflectance spectrometer, a micro-FTIR imaging spectrometer, a micro-Raman imaging spectrometer, a low-temperature experimental geochemistry laboratory, a full-equipped experimental petrology laboratory capable of simulating conditions from deep within planetary interiors to the surface, a portable thermal imager for field studies, and an image processing facility. Remote sensing studies make use of a variety of instruments orbiting Mars and the Moon as part of several missions, including Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as instruments carried on landed missions, notably the Mars Exploration Rovers. Current projects using data from these missions are focused on understanding the presence of salts, clays, and other minerals on the Martian surface, evaluating the composition and evolution of the Martian crust and sedimentary record, and determining the origin of unique lithologies on the lunar surface.

Examples of experimental projects currently underway involve understanding the spectral properties of sedimentary rocks and shocked clay minerals; determining the mid-IR optical constants of a range of common silicate minerals; evaluating halogen (Br, Cl) geochemistry in Martian surficial environments; determining large-scale crustal evolution of Mars through magmatic evolution, metamorphic overprinting, alteration of wallrock by exsolving magmatic fluids, and precipitation of sublimates at the surface; evaluating the effect of degassing on lunar apatite in order to assess the true volatile budget of the Moon.

Seismology, Tectonics, and Shallow Surface Geophysics
A primary focus in seismology and tectonics is the determination of detailed three dimensional earth structure, from the core to the surface, and related studies on the dynamics that drives mantle convection, deformation of the lithosphere, and plate tectonics in general. Particular emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary research and collaboration, where inferences made from seismological, geodynamic, and geodetic investigations are integrated with findings from the fields of mineral and rock physics, geochemistry, and petrology. Areas of specific focus in seismology include inner core structure, anisotropy, and attenuation, outer core structure, core-mantle boundary structure, upper mantle structure, strong ground motion studies, earthquake source parameter studies, and theoretical studies on seismic wave propagation. Investigations in tectonophysics include the coupling between mantle convection and lithospheric dynamics, the development of the kinematics, mechanics, and seismicity within plate boundary deformation zones, and the inference of mantle flow beneath the lithosphere. Current projects involve using earthquake and space geodetic data to infer the deformation fields and employing numerical, analytical, and analog modeling to understand surface geodynamical observations, ranging from geoid, topography, plate motions and surface deformations in the global and regional scales to the partitioning of strain and tectonic implications at geometrically complex plate margins. All of these projects emphasize the use of integrated seismic, structural, geodetic, and field data to understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of the Earth’s interior, as well as the driving forces for plate movements and deformations. The topics in shallow surface geophysics include field geophysical surveys of glaciotectonic deformation of Long Island sediments using ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity, seismic reflection and refraction as well as borehole geophysics. 

Mineral and Rock Physics
Research in these fields focuses on the investigation of the structure and composition of the Earth, geophysical properties of Earth materials, and the mechanical behavior of the crust and mantle. An important emphasis is the study of high-pressure and high-temperature phases and assemblages, particularly those of relevance to the mantle. In situ measurement of elastic properties, compressibility, and determination of crystal structure complement studies of high-pressure phase relations for constraining models for Earth's mantle and equations of state for mantle phases. Specific projects include determination of ultrasonic wave velocities of minerals and rheological determination of the strength of minerals at the pressure and temperature conditions of the Earth's mantle to depths greater than 500 km. Research initiatives in these areas are closely linked to the activities of the Mineral Physics Institute at Stony Brook and the NSF Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences [COMPRES]. Facilities available in the Department of Geosciences and the Mineral Physics Institute include equipment for ultrasonic interferometry, Brillouin spectroscopy, and multi-anvil apparatus for experiments at high pressure and temperature; these are all integrated with synchrotron X-ray sources at the NSLS. Complete single-crystal and powder X-ray diffraction facilities and transmission electron microscopy and electron diffraction are available. Another important area of study is rock physics, fluid flow and earthquake mechanics. Experimentally and theoretically based, this program focuses on brittle fracture, mechanical compaction of porous rock, strain localization, frictional instability, and hydromechanical behavior. The rock mechanics laboratory includes a triaxial press, an acoustic emission system, and permeameters. 

Crystal Chemistry and Crystallography
The department has a strong background in the study of earth materials at the atomic and molecular level, and in using the results of these studies to interpret the properties of materials constituting Earth from crust to core. Two centers of excellence, the Center for Environmental Molecular Sciences (CEMS) and the Mineral physics Institute (MPI) concentrate of the behavior of upper crustal and Earth’s Interior, respectively. Both employ a wide range of structural probes, some located in the department and others located at national and international synchrotron X-ray and neutron facilities. Within the department, extensive facilities for single-crystal and powder X-ray diffraction, with capabilities for in situ high-temperature and high-pressure studies exist. Projects emphasize crystal structure studies on oxides, hydroxides, sulfides, carbonates, and silicates, including characterization of phase transitions, ordering phenomena, and ion exchange. Convenient access to the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the National Synchrotron Light Source, NSLS, provides opportunities for unique experiments requiring a high-intensity X-ray source. Other projects utilize X-ray absorption spectroscopy to examine local structure in minerals and neutron diffraction for studies of hydrous phases. Many of the department’s faculty are actively engaged in the design and construction of the next generation of beamlines required for high pressure and environmental investigations. These facilities are being designed with the requirements of the Stony Brook and wider national and international user base in mind. This work is complemented by electron diffraction using the department’s transmission electron microscope.

There are broad opportunities for graduate study and research in many areas of geochemistry. Major initiatives exist in isotope and trace-element geochemistry, aqueous and hydrothermal geochemistry, and theoretical and experimental geochemistry of mineral-melt systems. All programs have a strong experimental foundation, and many integrate experimental work with field studies and computational approaches. 

Specific areas of research utilizing trace elements and radiogenic isotopes include evolution of Archean and Phanerozoic crust and geochronology of lithologic assemblages. These integrate with petrologic studies of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous terrains throughout the world. Research involving the chemistry and structure of sulfide and carbonate mineral surfaces are among the programs in low-temperature aqueous geochemistry; these include emphasis on geocatalysis, crystallization and trace element incorporation mechanisms, as well as the role of sulfides in the origin of life. Field-related studies focus on fluid chemistry in active hydrothermal systems. High temperature geochemical research focuses on experimental and theoretical investigations of melt and glass structure. 

Experimental and analytical work makes use of the department's electron microprobe, a transmission electron microscope, thermal ionization mass spectrometers, Mossbauer lab, DCP and ion chromatography labs, X-ray diffraction facilities, and two synthesis and experimental petrology labs. Additional work uses facilities in conjunction with the Center for Environmental Molecular Science at Stony Brook and in other Stony Brook departments (e.g., NMR) as well as at nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory, including the NSLS. 

Opportunities for graduate study and research in petrology range from atomic-scale investigations, for example dealing with the structure of glasses, to global questions regarding the relationships of magmatic suites to large-scale mantle and crustal processes. Projects include spectroscopic and quantum chemical approaches for examining mechanisms of volatile dissolution and crystal nucleation in melts and experimental investigations of the effects of pressure, temperature, and volatile composition on stabilities of minerals and melts, with corresponding development of thermodynamic models. Field and laboratory work are integrated in some studies. Additional investigations have focused on the implications of magmatism on Earth for the Martian magmatic history. 

This work is supported by experimental facilities that contain controlled-atmosphere gas-mixing furnaces, cold-seal bombs, piston-cylinder apparatus, internally heated pressure vessels, as well as multi-anvil apparatus for experiments at high temperature and pressure conditions. Analytical facilities include an electron microprobe, a transmission electron microscope, thermal ionization mass spectrometers, a Mossbauer lab, and X-ray diffraction facilities. 

Sedimentary Geology
Research initiatives in sedimentary geology at Stony Brook integrate geochemistry with field, petrologic, and stratigraphic studies. Trace element and isotopic studies of terrigenous sedimentary rocks provide information on their provenance, age, and composition, which yield insight to broader issues of crustal evolution, including sediment subduction, growth of continental crust and the sedimentary mass, and recycling of sedimentary rocks. Carbonate rocks and their diagenesis are another important area of research that utilizes a wide range of approaches. Petrography is combined with microanalytical techniques for trace elements and both stable and radiogenic isotopes to reconstruct the diagenetic environments and the physicochemical characteristics of paleohydrologic systems. Emphasis is also placed on the quantitative modeling of water-rock interactions. A strong component of field work is common for studies of both clastics and carbonates. Analytical facilities include the department's electron microprobe, optical and cathodoluminescence petrography and electron microscopy facilities, a mass spectrometry lab, a Mossbauer lab, DCP and ion chromatography labs, X-ray diffraction facilities, and a variety of facilities at the NSLS. 

The M.S. program with a concentration in hydrogeology is designed to give those with a B.S. degree is physical sciences a solid foundation of theoretical and practical graduate training emphasizing the physical and geochemical aspects of hydrogeology. Course work and a final research project totaling 30 graduate credits are arranged to accommodate working professionals, with most courses taught in the evenings. A formal thesis is not required. Coursework includes groundwater hydrology, aqueous geochemistry, rock and soil physics, numerical hydrology, statistics and probability, and organic contaminant hydrology. Final research projects are arranged individually with faculty supervisors and are designed to give students experience in field, laboratory, or theoretical approaches.

News & Announcements 

Dr. Jeffrey Marsh will be delivering a lecture entitled "Zircon and rutile petrochronology from a high-grade metamorphic terrane" on Thursday, 4/2/15/15 at 4:00pm in the Hanson Seminar Room (ESS 123).

Geosciences Seminars

Geosciences Department Newsletter


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