Distinguished Lecturer Series 2017-2018

COMPRES, the Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences announces the speakers for its 2017-2018 Distinguished Lecture series in the field of Mineral Physics. The talks feature topics that emphasize the exciting high-pressure geoscience research being conducted within the COMPRES community and its significance for understanding fundamental Earth and planetary processes.  

The primary target audience for these lectures is undergraduates in departments of geology and related sciences at non-PhD granting institutions, but applications from all academic institutions in the U.S. are welcome.   

We are pleased to announce that the COMPRES Distinguished Lecturers for 2017-2018 are Susannah "Suki" Dorfman of Michigan State University and Quentin Williams of UC Santa Cruz. Their lecture titles, abstracts and bios are below. We invite you to request a visit of a COMPRES lecturer to your institution during the next academic year by following these instructions.
COMPRES will fund all travel costs for the speaker, including transportation, accommodation and meals. There is no cost to the hosting institution. The host colleges or universities will be expected to arrange the talks and provide local logistical support.

If your institution is interested in requesting a visit, please send your request to Carl Agee, President of COMPRES [agee@unm.edu] with a copy to Shannon Clark [skclark@unm.edu].

The Lecture Program is designed to run from September 2017 through May 2018. Lecturer requests received by July 1, 2017 will be given priority. Later applications will be considered on an as-available basis. In making your request please include:  

1.  The name of a contact person at your institution for the months of June to August.  This is when schedules will be assembled.
2.  Contact e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
3.  Lecturer preference and flexibility.
4.  Preferred semester and/or month for the visit, including flexibility.  Also, if this is to be part of a regular lecture series, tell us the day of the week and time of the series.
5. Airport proximity and travel time to your institution   

We hope that your Department will be interested in hosting one of these mineral physics lecturers in this academic year.  
COMPRES is supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences.

Susannah Dorfman

Susannah Dorfman

Susannah “Suki” Dorfman received her S.B. in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. She earned both her M.S. (2008) and Ph.D. (2012) in Geosciences from Princeton University. Upon completing her dissertation, she was a postdoctoral scientist from 2011-2015 at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and was awarded a Marie Heim-Vögtlin Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2014 from the Swiss National Science Foundation. In 2015 she returned to the USA as an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. She currently serves as the Secretary of the Mineral and Rock Physics focus group of the AGU (2017-2018). Her experiments simulate the conditions inside Earth and other planets to determine the effects of high-pressure mineralogy on observable physical and chemical signatures.

(1) The Mineral Physics Test Kitchen: Recipes for Earth’s Mantle and Core

The interiors of Earth and other planets were “cooked” by processes of accretion and differentiation and can be “tasted” by geochemical sampling at the surface and remote geophysical observations of physical properties at depth. Mineral physics experiments and simulations seek to reverse-engineer the recipes that generate the features we detect in the deep Earth today. Because Earth and other planets are almost entirely composed of materials at high pressures and temperatures, the key to translating geophysical observations to structure and composition is the dependence of mineral stability and physical properties such as density, elasticity, and transport properties on composition and thermodynamic conditions. I will discuss recent observations of chemical reactions and properties of minerals relevant to Earth’s mantle and core, and implications of these experiments for the compositions of layers and regions in the deep Earth.

(2) Redox in Earth’s Interior: Iron and Carbon

Iron, one of the most abundant elements in our planet, and carbon, the basic element of life, have in common the ability to adopt different electronic states as a result of the range of oxidation conditions that occur on and inside Earth. A wide variety of redox reactions involving iron and/or carbon play important roles in volcanism, deep volatile cycles, planetary dynamics, and our understanding of differences in chemistry in space and time within the Earth. Recent research from the mineral physics community has discovered new iron- and carbon-bearing minerals stabilized by extreme pressures and temperatures of the mantle and core. I’ll dive in to the chemical history and interior structure of the Earth, with a focus on the dynamics of these redox-active materials.

Quentin Williams

Quentin Williams

Quentin Williams got his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Princeton, and his Ph.D. in geology at UC Berkeley. From 1988-91, he was a research scientist in the Institute of Tectonics at UC Santa Cruz; and from ’91 to the present, he’s been on the faculty at UCSC, currently as a Distinguished Professor, as well as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research. He was an NSF Presidential Faculty Fellow (the predecessor of the PECASE program), and has received the Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union and the Mineralogical Society of America Award. He works on a broad suite of problems related to the interiors of the Earth and planets, including collaborating with a suite of seismologists, geochemists and geodynamicists.

(1) The Core-Mantle Boundary: The Other Planetary Boundary That Matters

The changes in density and temperature across the core-mantle boundary region are the largest within Earth, exceeding those at Earth’s surface and within its lithosphere. As with the uppermost 200-ish km of the planet, the bottom-most few hundred km of Earth’s silicate mantle are extraordinarily structurally complex, befitting its role as the region through which much of the heat that drives mantle flow (and hence plate tectonics) is transmitted from the core to the mantle. I’ll describe the physical origins and experimental constraints on the peculiar features observed seismically in this region, including anomalous velocity gradients, ultra-low velocity zones (ULVZ’s) and large, continent-sized low shear wave-velocity provinces (LLSVP’s). The dynamic role of the core-mantle boundary in possibly being both the cradle from whence hotspots emerge and the home where slabs go to die will also be discussed.

(2) The Guts of Large Moons

The insides of large moons provide fundamental constraints on their origin and internal dynamics. Among the large moons, we have seismic constraints on the interior of our moon; and we know that Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the only moon with a present-day actively generated magnetic field. In terms of interiors, the other large moons of the giant planets are only constrained by their masses and moments of inertia. Here, I’ll discuss constraints on the internal structure of our moon, as derived from a reanalysis of seismic results from the stations deployed by the (long ago) Apollo missions, cover experimental constraints on the interiors of these bodies as derived from high-pressure experiments, and describe why some objects (like our moon) likely have long-dead magnetic fields, while one other (Ganymede) is still able to generate an internal field, while others probably never were able to generate a field.