Graduate work – U. Michigan

I am in my third year of graduate studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I joined the experimental petrology and economic geology lab group of Dr. Adam Simon in August 2018.

Project #1 – Sulfur in magmas

The first summer of my PhD (2019) I spent 2 months in Hannover, Germany, doing “rock experiments” at Leibniz University. The researchers in Hannover have amazing experimental facilities that we don’t have at the University of Michigan and have been collaborating with the Simon lab group for many years. I ran a total of 6 experiments, each at a different controlled redox state, for 3 days each. I crystallized the mineral apatite from a magma using internally heated pressure vessels, then analyzed the run products to quantify the compositions of the apatite and melt and am in the process of measuring the oxidation states of sulfur present in apatite using a synchrotron light source. I’m also going to analyze my run products for rare earth elements in the near future to add to our knowledge about how those energy critical metals behave in magmas.

This work is relevant to society because sulfur is critical in volcanic eruptions, the evolution of life on Earth, and the formation of many types of ore deposits. Sulfur is the 3rd most abundant component of fluids and vapors emitted by volcanoes and is much harder to study than water and carbon dioxide because it exists in multiple states in magma melts, minerals, and fluid/gas phases. Rare earth elements are a set of energy critical elements, which means they are extremely useful for technology and used in everything from phones to computers to iPads to TV’s. They are also extremely rare on Earth, so understanding how they get concentrated in minerals like apatite is very important for exploration of these metals.

Project #2 – Understanding titanium deposits in Minnesota

I am just starting my second project of my PhD! I’ll be working with two economic geologists at the Natural Resources Research Institute of the University of Minnesota in Duluth to understand a series of smaller intrusions hosted in the Duluth Complex that are titanium prospects. There are about 14 of these deposits located between Duluth and Hoyt Lakes, MN, and they have remained unstudied for ~20 years. We don’t know how they formed, so the main goal of my project is to investigate that question using mineral chemistry and relationships. I collected the rocks for this project in September 2020 (see this post) and am now processing the samples and will start analyses soon.

This project is important because titanium is a critical mineral that is used in a variety of products: as a white pigment for paints, paper, and powdered donuts and as an alloy to make stronger, lighter, corrosive-resistant metals. The US currently produces only 4% of titanium globally, so we rely heavily on imports. If we want to become more self-sufficient for this critical mineral, we need to understand our current titanium reserves, how those deposits formed, and where we can explore for more deposits. Therefore, this project will help us understand some of the most promising titanium deposits in the country.


See the following posts for info on some travel & outreach I’ve done, along with photos of how the lab family has changed through the years:

Year 3 (Sept 2020 – Aug 2021):

Field work in Minnesota | September 2020

Simon lab family 2019-20: Nikita, Maria, Adam, me, and Justin

Year 2 (Sept 2019 – Aug 2020):

Society of Economic Geologists annual conference | Santiago, Chile | October 7-11, 2019

SEG Student Chapter geology field trip to the Upper Peninsula | Marquette, MI | November 7-9, 2019

Switzerland research trip | Zurich/Villigen/Bern | Jan. 28 – Feb. 8, 2020

UM Dept. field trip | Israel/Jordan | Feb. 26 – Mar. 10, 2020

The Simon lab family 2018-19: Adam, Brian, Nikita, Maria, and I (minus Tristan).

Year 1 (Sept 2018 – Aug 2019):

Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada annual meeting | Toronto, ON | March 3-6, 2019

Young Scientists’ Expo at Forsythe Middle School | U-M Association for Women in Science Chapter | March 17th, 2019

Geologic tour of Lake Superior | Marquette, MI – Hoyt Lakes, MN – Terrace Bay, ON | May 3-12, 2019

Summer research in Germany | Institute for Mineralogy in Hannover, Germany | June-July 2019

Ghana Summer School | Accra, Ghana | August 4-10, 2019