Graduate work – U. Michigan

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

I am in my second 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. My first PhD project focuses on understanding how much sulfur can dissolve in evolved magmas and how sulfur and rare earth elements partition between the mineral apatite and the magma.

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.


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 2 (Aug 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

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

Year 1 (Aug 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