Resident Faculty Research Interests

The Department of Geology at the University of Maryland has focused its research efforts in the applications of geochemistry and geophysics to studies of the solid earth and earth surface processes. This focused approach enables participation in various threads of modern and future Earth System Science, as well as developing areas within the Department, which include planetary geology and forensics.Our particular strengths are as follows:

Geochemistry, which involves investigations of low- to high-temperature processes operating from Earth’s surface to it’s core and within the Solar System;

Solid Earth Science, which is the study of the minerals, rocks, and structures that constitute Earth, and the tectonic and other processes by which they are formed and altered

Surficial Processes and Environments, which involves the study of active and past fluxes (and reservoirs) of water, dissolved components, and sediment on Earth’s surface and the interactions of these fluxes with the biosphere and atmosphere; and,

Geophysics, which includes investigations of Earth’s interior structure and dynamics, as well as planetary physics.

These areas are not mutually exclusive, and students are encouraged to develop a program that suits their interests.

Ricardo Arévalo, Jr., Associate Professor | Ph.D. University of Maryland, 2010

As a hybrid between a classically trained geochemist and a mission-oriented planetary scientist, my research ambitions are multifaceted. I continue to be interested in refining our understanding of the architecture of the Earth’s mantle, both today and in the geological past, but I also attempt to constrain other planetary processes through the exploitation of well-defined geochemical systems/proxies.

More specifically, my laboratory research relies on the development of innovative analytical protocols and the advancement of pioneering technologies/instrumentation to: 1) characterize the organic content in planetary materials (natural, synthetic, and analog samples); 2) quantify ultratrace element abundances (down to sub-ppb levels); and, 3) measure non-traditional stable isotopes, via highly precise and accurate laser ablation mass spectrometry. I have become deeply invested in the development of miniaturized pulsed laser systems as well as a variety of game-changing mass analyzers that promise to revolutionize our understanding of our planetary neighborhood.

(301) 405-5352 |

Richard Ash, Research Scientist | Ph.D. Open University, 1990

My own research interests are in the origin and early evolution of planets and planetary systems. For me this is largely based on the analysis of chondritic meteorites; partially digested leftovers from the formation of the planets in our Solar System.

(301) 405-7504 |

Michael Brown, Professor | Ph.D. University of Keele, U.K., 1975

Metamorphic geology, with an emphasis on granulites, eclogites and crustal melting; orogenic processes, particularly heat and mass transfer; and, secular change and global tectonics.

(301) 405-4080 |

Philip Candela, Professor Emeritus | Ph.D. Harvard University, 1982

Thermodynamics and mass transfer dynamics of magmatic-hydrothermal systems; mineral and resource economics; the role of markets in society; the geology and physical chemistry of shale gas and shale oil extraction; experimental studies of geological materials in the Earth’s upper crust; asbestos geology; mineral deposits in the Appalachians; the formation of granites

Michael Evans, Professor | Ph.D. Columbia University, 1999

paleoclimate observations and modeling, global environmental change

(301) 405-8763 |

James Farquhar, Distinguished University Professor and Chair | Ph.D. University of Alberta, 1995

James Farquhar is Distinguished University Professor and Chair of the Department of Geology and a member of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) at the University of Maryland. Dr. Farquhar’s research is in the process of transitioning to focus on isotopic techniques fingerprinting and tracing atmospheric methane methane sources, both natural and anthropogenic, primarily in the mid-Atlantic states region – wetland emissions, emissions from combustion, emissions from human and agricultural sources. This is a new direction and draws on the recently acquired UMD Panorama ( to measure isotopologues (isotopic variants) of methane molecules with 0, 1, and 2 heavy isotope substitutions. 

Dr. Farquhar’s past research focused on sulfur isotope geochemistry in a variety of terrestrial and extraterrestrial systems, spanning the modern to the ancient and extends from the atmosphere to the oceans and solid Earth. Farquhar and coworkers are best known for the discovery and interpretation of mass independent sulfur isotope signatures in samples from the early Earth that trace the evolution of oxygen and chemistry in the early atmosphere; in samples from Mars that tell of different conditions and reflect different reactions; and that provide tracers that track sulfur from surface reservoirs into other planetary reservoirs. Farquhar and coworkers have also used sulfur isotopes to trace metabolic and biogeochemical transformations for inorganic and organic sulfur compounds using laboratory experiments and ab initio approaches. 

(301) 405-5043 |

Thomas Holtz, Jr., Principal Lecturer | Ph.D. Yale University, 1992

The evolution, paleoecology, functional morphology, biomechanics, and adaptive trends of major groups of extinct vertebrates, especially theropod dinosaurs; Mesozoic terrestrial ecosystems; major events and adaptive radiations in the history of life

(301) 405-6965 |

Mong-Han Huang, Associate Professor | Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 2014

My research focuses on using geodesy (measurement of Earth’s geometric shape, orientation in space, and gravitational field) and seismology to study crustal deformation related to active plate tectonics. In the Active Tectonics Laboratory, we use the techniques called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and GPS to measure Earth’s surface position and movement through time. We can use this technique to monitor surface movement before, during, and after earthquakes, which can tell us about Earth’s interior properties. We can also apply the same technique to monitor surface deformation related to volcanic activities, hydrologic cycles, landslide hazards, and land subsidence due to anthropogenic activities. We attempt to understand the processes behind tectonic uplift, weathering and erosion, and how different components can shape our landscape and make Earth the way we see it today.

(301) 405-1311 |

Alan Kaufman, Professor | Ph.D. University of Indiana, 1990

My research has focused on the determination of changes in the isotopic composition of the oceans through time, by the analysis of stragraphic suites of little-altered carbonate rocks. Thus far, most of these studies have centered around Neoproterozoic (ca. 1000-544 million-year-old) sedimentary successions in Svalbard/East Greenland, Namibia, arctic Canada and Alaska, India, and the western USA. Temporal variations in C and Sr isotopes can be used as stratigraphic tools within and between basins, and through detailed correlations allow us to order key tectonic, biogeochemical, and paleoenvironmental events in Earth history.

(301) 405-0395 |

Sujay Kaushal, Professor | Ph.D. University of Colorado, 2003

Land use and climate impacts on water resources, increased salinization and alkalinization of fresh water, urban watershed continuum approach, urban evolution, watershed restoration, and applications of geochemical tracers to ecology

(301) 405-0454 |

Daniel Lathrop, Professor | Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin, 1991

Turbulence, Geophysical & Astrophysical Magnetic Fields

(301) 405-1594 |

Vedran Lekić, Professor | Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 2009

At the broadest level, I seek to understand the state, dynamics, and dominant processes of the solid Earth, as well as those of other planets and satellites. Accurate seismic imaging is a crucial first step toward this goal. I believe that we stand at a threshold of a transformation in seismology, one enabled by the concomitant proliferation of high-quality array data and the development of accurate wave propagation techniques capable of capturing the effects of realistic Earth structure. For the first time, we have in place the theoretical, computational, and observational infrastructure necessary to constrain Earth structure simultaneously using multiple approaches, and to do so in a self-consistent fashion. My continuing efforts have therefore focused on: 1. Developing and implementing new techniques for imaging structures within the Earth’s mantle, including full waveform modeling; 2. Describing and quantifying the relationship between deep processes and structures and surface tectonics on global and regional scales.

(301) 405-4086 |

Cédric Magen, Associate Research Scientist | Ph.D.

(301) 314-1557 |

William McDonough, Professor | Ph.D. Australian National University, 1988

Understanding the composition, structure and evolution of the Earth and the other terrestrial planets are dominant themes of my research. The differentiation of the Earth has created 3 separate and distinct reservoirs (i.e., the core, the mantle-crust system, and the atmosphere-hydrosphere system). These reservoirs are in turn themselves internally differentiated and powered in part by radioactively produced energy. Chemical and isotopic studies of terrestrial and meteoritic samples provide insights into the timing and details of the various differentiation processes occurring in these planetary domains.

My expertise is in analytical instrumentation and neutrino geoscience. Using laser ablation systems and plasma mass spectrometers for the chemical and isotopic analyses of samples I work with geologists, biologist, chemists, physicists and members of the US intelligence community. I am developing and improving upon methods of modeling and detecting the Earth’s geoneutrino (electron antineutrino) flux and anti-neutrino detection for nuclear monitoring. With my students we provide chemical and isotopic data that constrain geological processes and data for forensics, nuclear chemistry and archaeology.

(301) 405-5561 |

John Merck, Jr., Principal Lecturer | Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin, 1997

The phylogeny and evolutionary history of the euryapsids, primarily marine reptiles of the Mesozoic Era, including ichthyosaurs, placodonts, and sauropterygians, the empirical testing of cladistic methods of phylogeny reconstruction using digitally simulated phylogenies, and the incorporation of data from CT scans of fossil specimens in the morphological description of fossil taxa.

(301) 405-4379 |

Laurent Montési, Professor | Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002

My research focuses principally on understanding the patterns of deformation that we see at the surface of the planets of the solar system. I focus mainly on the formation of mountain belts, but rifting is fine too. I am interested in structures found on Earth, Mars, Venus, and the satellites of Jupiter, Ganymede and Europa.

More specifically, I study how these patterns are influenced by the formation of faults, by the localization of deformation on narrow shear zones. I have developed a model that produces regularly-spaced faults in the lithosphere of terrestrial planets and applied to different environments.

(301) 405-7534 |

Megan Newcombe, Assistant Professor | Ph.D. California Institute of Technology, 2016

I am an experimental petrologist and volcanologist. My research is focused on understanding the controls on volcanic eruptive style on Earth and on other planets. I am also interested in quantifying the sources and fluxes of volatiles in planetary interiors.

(301) 405-2783 |

Sarah Penniston-Dorland, Professor | Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University, 2005

I am interested in learning about fluid flow in Earth's crust through the study of the record fluids leave behind in metamorphic and igneous rocks. I collect field data along with mineralogical, chemical, isotopic and textural data, and apply the concepts of equilibrium thermodynamics and mass transport.

(301) 405-6239 |

Philip Piccoli, Research Scientist | Ph.D. University of Maryland at College Park, 1992

Field studies of silicic igneous rocks; role of accessory phases in granitic systems; microanalysis of rock-forming minerals; geochemistry of fluids associated with plutonic and volcanic systems

(301) 405-6966 |

Karen Prestegaard, Associate Professor | Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1982

Sediment transport and depositional processes in mountain gravel-bed streams; mechanisms of streamflow generation and their variations with watershed scale, geology, and land use; hydrologic behavior of frozen ground; hydrologic consequences of climate change; hydrology of coastal and riparian wetlands.

(301) 405-6982 |

Igor Puchtel, Research Scientist | Ph.D. Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow 1992

My research interests center around chemical and thermal evolution of deep Earth and terrestrial planets. I study radiogenic isotope systems, including Sm-Nd, Re-Os, Pt-Os, Lu-Hf, and Hf-W, and lithophile and highly siderophile element abundances in various types of terrestrial and extraterrestrial materials using thermal ionization mass-spectrometry (TIMS) and inductively coupled plasma mass-spectrometry (ICP-MS).

(301) 405-4054 |

Cecilia Sanders, Assistant Professor (as of July 1, 2025) | Ph.D. California Institute of Technology, 2022

Nicholas Schmerr, Associate Professor | Ph.D. Arizona State University, 2008

Solid earth geophysics, planetary seismology, field and array seismology, seismic instrumentation, planetary geology, cryospheric processes, numerical modeling of elastic wave propagation, geodynamics, mineral and rock physics (including numerical modeling of melt and ices), the structure, evolution, and dynamics of the crusts, mantles, and cores of terrestrial objects.

My primary research focus lies in deciphering the formation, dynamics, and evolution of planetary surfaces and interiors using the remote sensing tools of seismology. I am extremely interested in how the physical and chemical properties of rocks, ices, and minerals are related to the evolution and dynamics of planetary interiors. My research projects span the Solar System, with current studies investigating seismic problems on Earth, the Moon, Venus, Mars, asteroids, Jupiter's satellites Europa and Io, and Saturn's satellites Enceladus and Titan.

(301) 405-4385 |

Jessica Sunshine, Professor | Ph.D. Brown University, 1994

My research focuses on the use of spectroscopy and morphologic context to determine the composition and origin of various Solar System objects including: comets, asteroids, meteorites, and the Moon.

(301) 405-1045 |

Richard Walker, Distinguished University Professor | Ph.D. S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook, 1984

Application of radiogenic isotopes and trace elements, with emphasis on siderophile elements, to conduct research in several areas of geo- and cosmo-chemistry including the chemical evolution of Earth’s mantle, the formation and crystallization histories of early Solar System planetesimals, and the accretional and differentiation histories of the Earth, Moon and Mars.

(301) 405-4089 |

Ann Wylie, Professor Emerita | Ph.D. Columbia University, 1972

Economic geology of Appalachian metal and industrial deposits; mineralogy and human health; the study of ore minerals as petrogenetic indicators; geology and tectonic history of the central Appalachian Piedmont.

(301) 405-4079 |

Mengqiang Zhu, Associate Professor | Ph.D.

(301) 405-9117 |

Wenlu Zhu, Professor | Ph.D. Stony Brook University, 1996

Experimental rock physics; laboratory and theoretical studies on deformation and percolation of crustal rocks; transport properties of hydrothermal vent deposits; submarine geomorphology.

(301) 405-1831 |