Our faculty and students are involved in a broad range of theoretical and applied research, teaching and teacher training, at the cutting edge of the Earth Sciences.
With our widely varied research themes and with active investigations currently underway throughout the world, we are engaged in the exploration and understanding of those complex processes which determine and have determined, the past, present and future of the Earth and solar system.
We have many research programs in the broad area of Economic Geology. Our students are very active in field, laboratory and analytical studies with most research being conducted in experimental petrology, mineralogy and geochemistry. Current research topics include:
- Cu-Au-Fe partitioning at high-temperatures in magmatic-hydrothermal systems (porphyry type deposits)
- Pt, Pd and Cu partitioning between a silicate and sulfide melt (mineralization in layered mafic intrusions)
- Au in sulfide minerals (Carlin trend to porphyry deposits), mineral-fluid alteration reactions (epithermal to porphyry systems)
- mineral solubility studies (MVT deposits)
- Our experimental equipment and analytical instruments allow for world class, cutting edge research in Economic Geology.
Graduate students are trained in field, experimental, analytical, spectroscopic and geochemical laboratory techniques. This approach leaves them well prepared for additional graduate study, or for an assortment of jobs in the mining, analytical and/or engineering sectors of the job market.
Mark R. Frank - economic geology, experimental petrology, mineralogy and geochemistry
We house a host of analytical equipment for petrologic and geochemical analyses and experiments. The high pressure geochemistry and petrology lab uses diamond anvil cells to study geochemical processes in high temperature and pressure environments, whereas the hydrothermal geochemistry lab uses a variety of tube furnaces and hydrothermal vessels to study mineral-fluid reactions at elevated temperatures. Mass spectrometers (including a LA-ICP-MS system for documenting trace metals in fluid and melt inclusions), an environmental scanning electron microscope and a microprobe are available for mineral characterization
Our research in geocognition and geoscience education aims to understand how people think and learn about geoscience content. Geocognition research is inherently interdisciplinary and draws upon quantitative and qualitative methodologies used in psychology and education research to investigate geoscience-specific problem solving. Most recently, a major research focus has included spatial ability and the spatial skills that may enhance geoscience learning. Another research focus is on the experiences and programmatic features that influence the participation of students from diverse backgrounds in the geosciences. These studies inform educators and geoscience faculty about the best methods for recruitment, training and retention of geoscience students both at the K-12 and undergraduate levels. This work has broader implications for STEM education, as well.
Graduate students are trained to design and conduct quasi- and non-experimental studies using qualitative methods (e.g. case study, interviewing techniques, etc.) and/or quantitative methods (e.g. survey development and validation, inferential statistics, etc.). This program may lead to a M.S. or PhD. and prepares students for a variety of future careers. In particular, students may pursue additional academic study or careers in educational research, program management, or curriculum development. Other geoscience education career opportunities may be available for students in private or not-for-profit organizations, governmental agencies, or geoscience agencies.
Nicole D. LaDue - geoscience education, geocognition, recruitment and retention
We are home to a newly developed geocognition laboratory with a dedicated interview space and eye-tracking laboratory. The eye-tracker is a Tobii X2 and mobile workstation to allow for portability to the study site. Analyses are typically carried out using SPSS and R. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of this research area, collaborations with colleagues in psychology and education, both within NIU and beyond, are essential
The demand for reliable water supplies and the requirements to protect them from pollution have put groundwater at the forefront of current environmental activity. In consequence, there is a continuing high demand in industry, regulatory agencies and environmental consulting companies for qualified hydrogeologists and groundwater geochemists. In addition, universities, agencies and geological surveys need such scientists to conduct further research into groundwater movement, aquifer characteristics, contaminant transport and the interactions of rock and water.
We bring together an exceptional combination of faculty specializations in groundwater within an unusually broad range of geological expertise. The graduate student gains not only hydrogeological, geophysical and geochemical training but also the ability to consider all the geological aspects of a groundwater problem - and the flexibility to adapt to changing environmental emphases and markets. Programs leading to both M.S. and Ph.D. are offered.
- Phil Carpenter- environmental and groundwater geophysics
- Melissa Lenczewski - geomicrobiology, organic geochemistry, contaminant hydrogeology
We have considerable hydrogeological field equipment for groundwater sampling, pump-testing, downhole monitoring and well-site geochemistry. Departmental laboratories include facilities and major equipment for analysis of stable and radiogenic isotopes, major and trace elements and organic and inorganic compounds in rocks and water. For geophysical field work, the department has resistivity, electromagnetics and shallow seismic survey equipment.
Our Igneous Petrology and Volcanology research groups are very active in field, laboratory and analytical studies. Our research groups are centered in experimental petrology, volcanology and the use of major, minor and trace element geochemistry in addressing petrologic questions. Our current research thrusts are diverse and include: across-arc geochemical studies, pre-eruptive magmatic volatile contents, Ar-Ar dating of young volcanic rocks, serpentine dehydration kinetics in subduction zones, mantle wedge metasomatism, Cu-Au-Fe partitioning at high-temperatures in magmatic-hydrothermal systems, mineral-fluid alteration reactions and mineral solubility studies. We encourage cross-disciplinary studies between the research groups and our experimental equipment and analytical instruments provide the required tools to address many research areas in igneous petrology and volcanology.
Graduate students are trained in field, experimental, analytical, spectroscopic and geochemical laboratory techniques. This approach leaves them well prepared for additional graduate study, or for an assortment of jobs in the mining, environmental, analytical and/or engineering sectors of the job market.
- Mark Frank - experimental mineralogy, geochemistry of planetary interiors, hydrothermal geochemistry
- Jim Walker - volcanology, geochemistry of subduction zones, igneous petrology and geochemistry
We house a host of analytical equipment for petrologic and geochemical analyses and experiments. The high pressure geochemistry and petrology lab uses diamond anvil cells to study geochemical processes in high temperature and pressure environments, whereas the hydrothermal geochemistry lab uses a variety of tube furnaces and hydrothermal vessels to study mineral-fluid reactions at elevated temperatures. Mass spectrometers, an environmental scanning electron microscope and a microprobe are available for mineral characterization
- Reed Scherer - micropaleontology and biostratigraphy
Our research in Planetary Geology ranges from the analysis of surficial features and planetary tectonics to the internal structure and core dynamics of planets and moons. Recent research has included studies of cratering dynamics of Enceladus and the application of mineral physics in understanding the distribution of mineral phases that exist in planetary bodies. These studies provide fundamental insight into the origin and evolution of the solar system, as well as large-scale planetary structure and evolution.
Graduate students are trained in experimental, analytical, spectroscopic, remote sensing, digital image processing and geochemical laboratory techniques. This approach leaves them well prepared for additional graduate study, or for a wide range of possible careers in mineralogy, space science, remote sensing and data processing.
- Mark Frank - geochemistry of planetary interiors
We maintain a variety of analytical and computational facilities to aid in the study of planetary geology. High pressure geochemistry and petrology laboratories with piston cylinders and diamond anvil cells are used to simulate the high temperature and pressure conditions of planetary interiors and GIS, Matlab and image processing software are used to analyze high resolution satellite imagery of planets and moons. Much of our geochemical research uses synchrotron facilities at the Argonne National Laboratory, which is less than an hour from the NIU campus.
This research group integrates field and laboratory work with numerical, analytical and physical modeling to better understand large- and small-scale deformation processes. These endeavors are important in a wide variety of applications such as hydrocarbon exploration and production, earthquake risk assessment, geological engineering, geothermal energy, waste disposal, groundwater resource management and predicting the response of glaciers, ice shelves and ice sheets to global climate change.
Graduate students are trained in geological and geophysical field techniques, modern seismic interpretation methods, numerical modeling and quantitative geostatistical and geospatial analysis. This approach leaves them well prepared for additional graduate study, or for an assortment of jobs in the petroleum, environmental, mining and engineering sectors of the job market.
- Phil Carpenter - geophysics, seismology, engineering geology
- Mark P. Fischer - fracture and fault mechanics, tectonic geomorphology and paleohydrology
We are home to a wide variety of field equipment, computer hardware, software and laboratory facilities that are used by faculty and students in the Structure and Tectonics research group. Students conduct field mapping with high resolution differential GPS units and use Move™, Poly3D™ and FRANC to create 2-D and 3-D numerical models of faults, folds and fractures. Field and laboratory results are assembled and analyzed in ArcGIS™ databases, while seismic datasets are interpreted with IHS's Kingdom™ and the open source software OpendTect. Scaled, analog models of upper crustal folding and faulting are conducted in the physical modeling lab.