My research is focused on the measurement of the structure and dynamics in (mostly) inorganic materials, with the goal of understanding and predicting their thermodynamic and transport properties. These in turn fundamentally control a wide range of geological and technological phenomena. My students, postdocs, and I work primarily on disordered materials, including minerals, glassy and molten silicates and oxides, and ceramics. Our primary research tool is nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). The materials that we study come from the natural laboratory of the Earth or are synthesized in our own labs. The problems that we address are tied to large-scale processes in geology and geophysics, as well as to those in high-tech industries. Among the former are the mechanisms of viscous flow in magmas and of solid solution in minerals from the crust to the lower mantle; among the latter are the optimization of glasses for flat screen computer displays and optical data transmission and of oxide ceramics for fuel cells.
I have long taught a course in introductory geochemistry for undergrads at the beginnings of their careers in Earth sciences. Topics range from the formation of the chemical elements in stellar interiors, to high pressure and temperature phase equilibria, to aqueous solution chemistry, formation of oil and coal, and even the origin of life. At the advanced level I give a course on thermodynamics and structure of minerals and melts aimed at all graduate students who work with these "geomaterials." Recently I have begun teaching a course for advanced undergrads and for grad students on igneous processes.
Geochemical Society Fellow (2009); European Geosciences Union Bunsen Medal (2009); American Ceramic Society Morey Award (1995); Mineralogical Society of America Award (1992); NSF Presidential Young Investigator (1986-91); associate dean, School of Earth Sciences (1996-1999); chair, GES (1999-2004; 2009-2012); participation in professional societies, scientific conferences, and proposal and journal reviews in geochemistry, geophysics, mineralogy, inorganic chemistry, glass science, ceramics, and solid-state NMR
Structure and dynamics of silicate and oxide minerals, glasses, and high-temperature melts and magmas; mineralogy; geochemistry; solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy