News and Updates


In the summer, students and faculty from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration leave the lab behind to conduct hands-on research in the field.

Field camp is a tradition in the education of a geologist – supported by the old adage that the best geologists are the ones who have seen the most rocks. It provides students the opportunity to apply what has been learned in the classroom and laboratory to real geological problems in the field.

The School of Earth and Space Exploration offers two basic field courses – Field Geology I (GLG 451) and Field Geology II (GLG452). Field II, commonly known as Field Camp, has been offered in its present form for 12 years and is highly recommended for students majoring in the Earth and Space Exploration concentration in geological sciences. The students spend three weeks in a hands-on environment learning fieldwork techniques outside of Payson, Ariz.

Field II is expensive (tuition plus a $869 class fee) and it takes students away from summer jobs for three weeks so it can be a financial hardship. To provide financial assistance to students who might otherwise not be able to afford the expenses of field camp, two scholarships exist – the Robert Dietz Field Camp Scholarship, named after a former professor in geology at ASU, and the Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship, in memory of a recent alumnus who died in a mining accident August 2010.

For many years, the Robert S. Dietz Field Camp Scholarships were funded by Professor Robert S. Dietz using his own personal resources. Now, SESE carries on this tradition in his memory awarding the scholarships to support students who are majoring in geology. This year, two recipients were selected to receive $500 scholarships: William Akers and Samuel Ybarra, both students are majoring in Earth and Space Exploration with a concentration in geological sciences.

The Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship was created in 2010 in honor of Ravi DeFilippo, a 2009 graduate of SESE from Tucson, Ariz. The scholarship covers the amount of the field camp fee and is made possible by gifts from Ravi’s family and friends to honor his memory and his love of field geology. The recipient of this year’s Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship is Lori Prause.

“Field work is a very important part of a geologist’s education. Everything learned in the classroom over many years is collectively applied to the rocks, structures, and depositions in nature,” says Prause. “The cost of a concentrated field class is naturally expensive given that shelter, food, and a classroom are necessary for the students. Having assistance for part of the expense by way of a scholarship is of great help for a valuable experience that might not be feasible without it.”

Michelle Aigner, a senior working toward her bachelor of sciences with a focus on geological sciences, was the recipient of the first Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship.

“This scholarship really helped relieve the stress of trying to come up with time to earn more money for camp and the missed time at work when I would be at camp,” says Aigner, who juggles a part-time job in between her studies and caring for her recently widowed mother. “I love geology and field camp was an awesome way to integrate all the subjects I’d learned so far and just a really great experience.”

“Students will be practicing their field mapping skills, data collection skills, interpretation and writing skills as well as preparation of accurate maps and cross sections. They will be working independently in rugged terrain and forest to uncover the geology and interpret the geologic history of the area,” explains SESE Professor Tom Sharp, instructor of Field II. “This course compliments their classroom work by providing an independent study experience that brings in all of their geologic knowledge to solve problems in the field.”

Not being able to work for three weeks in the summer places a large financial burden on students. Therefore, SESE is seeking to increase its available support so that every student participating in the field camp can receive some level of aid, but your help is needed to make this happen.
To make a gift to one of the field camp scholarship funds — in any amount — click the links below.

Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship:

Robert S. Dietz Field Camp Scholarships:

Caption: Leah Pettis records data on her map during the Field Geology Camp, held outside of Payson, Ariz., in June 2011. Credit: Tom Story

To look at more photos from last summer's field season, check out this gallery:


(Nikki Cassis)


“Carbon is one of the main currencies of most living things on the planet. Almost everything that is alive needs organic carbon for energy,’’ says Hilairy Hartnett, associate professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State University, in a story that appeared in U.S.News & World Report May 9.

Hartnett describes the importance of carbon – one of the most abundant elements in the universe, and carbon compounds form the basis for all known life – and discusses her research into what happens to carbon in the Colorado River, a large and heavily managed river that flows 1,450 miles from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California, and serves as the main water supply for the desert Southwest, including Arizona, Southern Utah, Nevada and Southern California. Her goal is to understand how organic carbon moves from the land to the ocean, and how it changes, or doesn’t change, along the way. “I would like to know how biogeochemical processes in rivers affect the type of carbon that gets to the ocean. When you look at the ocean, you’re not looking at pieces of tree. I want to know what happens to that material before it gets to the ocean. We want to know how much carbon makes it all the way to the end of the river, and how is it different from the carbon at the beginning?”

Hartnett is studying carbon in the Colorado River under a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, which she received in 2009 as part of NSF’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. NSF is funding her work with about $574,000 over five years.

Read the full article here:

(Nikki Cassis)



A 3-minute special assignment story by reporter Chris Williams of Channel 12 News aired on the 10 p.m. news on May 10 about Dust Devils on Earth and Mars and the research done at ASU/SESE. In it Danny Foley, SESE alumnus as of May 2011 after getting his BS and MS from ASU and currently a research analyst for LROC, talks about the research he has done as a student in Ron Greeley's Planetary Geology Group utilizing the ASU Vortex Generator, Wind Tunnel Facility , and the Space Photography Laboratory. Foley and the reporter also went out into the field to observe dust devils in nature out in the desert south of Maricopa. Amy Zink is featured in it as well for the laboratory part setting up the Vortex Generator.

You can watch the news clip here:


New findings from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft lay the groundwork for the first geological overview of asteroid (4)Vesta and confirm the existence of not one but two giant impact basins in its southern hemisphere. The findings, published today in a set of Science papers, will help scientists better understand the early solar system and processes that occurred as it formed and evolved.

The Dawn spacecraft, orbiting asteroid Vesta since July 2011, has already acquired several thousand images of the asteroid’s surface, revealing a complex landscape. The images provide many details that help scientists to understand how the surface has evolved since its formation.

The first paper provides an overview of the true complexity of this ancient world. Vesta is not just a ball of rock; its surface is dominated by abundant impact craters of all shapes and sizes, from small fresh craters to giant basins as seen in the southern hemisphere. The surface of Vesta is complex and varied, with preserved ejecta blankets clinging to some craters, large troughs extending around the equatorial region, enormous mountains, and unevenly distributed enigmatic dark material, but as yet an absence of volcanic features.

“As a volcanologist, and as one who expected to find evidence of volcanism on Vesta based on what we knew from the Howardite–Eucrite–Diogenite (HED) meteorites and prior models of Vesta’s formation, the biggest surprise for me was the absence of any evidence of volcanic features. Vesta’s surface has been so heavily modified by impact cratering that any evidence of its early volcanic activity has been destroyed,” says Dawn mission participating scientist David Williams, co-author on the papers and faculty research associate in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

The present lack of volcanic features detected on Vesta suggests that volcanism was only active during the short period of rapid cooling of Vesta’s interior within the first 100 million years after formation, and that the surface has been eroded by impacts over time.

Like Earth and other terrestrial planets, Vesta has ancient basaltic materials in its crust and a large iron core. It is an irregular asteroid that also has tectonic features, troughs, ridges, cliffs, hills and a giant mountain. But comparisons of the slopes and topography of Vesta show that they are intermediate between planets and small asteroids, underscoring Vesta’s unique role as a transitional solar system body.

Prior to the arrival of the Dawn spacecraft, some Vestan surface features had already been resolved using the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes. The most prominent of these surface features is an enormous crater Dawn found to be about 500 kilometers (310 miles) in diameter, centered near the south pole, named Rheasilvia after the mother of Romulus and Remus. Its width is 90 percent the diameter of Vesta and it is estimated that the impact responsible excavated about 1 percent of the volume of Vesta.

The second paper is a geological description of this large impact basin.

“Dawn observations enabled us to recognize that there are actually TWO large basins at the south pole, an older one named “Veneneia” and a younger one named “Rheasilvia”,” explains Williams.

The Rheasilvia basin dominates the geology of Vesta, as the basin itself and its impact ejecta cover most of the southern hemisphere. The center of Rheasilvia has a central peak taller than Mt. Everest or Mauna Loa on Earth, similar in height to Olympus Mons on Mars. This basin appears to have excavated into the mantle of Vesta, exposing material spectrally similar to diogenite meteorites; Vesta’s crust is spectrally similar to eucrite and howardite meteorites, thus confirming that Vesta and its family of asteroids are the source of the howardite-eucrite-diogenite (HED) family of basaltic achondrite meteorites.

“For most planets and moons we see the pictures first, then have samples collected later to confirm our geologic interpretations. In the case of Vesta, thanks to the HED meteorites, we have the samples first, and must try to relate them to our emerging geologic picture of Vesta from the Dawn mission,” said Williams.

Caption: This image shows three slices of a class of meteorites that fell to Earth that NASA’s Dawn mission has confirmed as originating from the giant asteroid Vesta. The meteorites, known as howardite, eucrite and diogenite meteorites, were viewed through a polarizing microscope, where different minerals appear in different colors. The texture of the rocks reveals that they crystallized at different rates. The image on the left comes from a meteorite named QUE 97053 (Antarctica), which is basaltic eucrite. The image in the middle comes from the Moore County (North Carolina) cumulate eucrite. The image on the right comes from a diogenite meteorite named GRA 98108 (Antarctica). Credit: University of Tennessee


(Nikki Cassis)


Arizona State University astrophysics graduate student Kimberly Ward-Duong is the recipient of a 2012 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students working in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.

Ward-Duong, a first-year doctoral student in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, will receive a three-year annual stipend providing the full costs of salary, tuition and fees, and travel for international research and professional development programs.

Ward-Duong joined SESE after completing undergraduate degrees in physics, astronomy, and mathematics at Northern Arizona University. Her previous research involved observations of transiting exoplanets and the search for both planetary companions and moons in those systems. She was a NASA Space Grant intern for one year. The summer after her junior year, she was an intern at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, as part of the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. During her internship, she worked on Chandra X-ray Observatory observations of elliptical galaxies.

Upon arriving at ASU last Fall, she began a research project with Associate Professor Sangeeta Malhotra designed to search for infrared signatures of dust grains within massive clusters of galaxies, using data from the NASA WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) satellite. Malhotra provided mentorship and advice as Ward-Duong worked on her NSF fellowship application. Currently, Ward-Duong is working on two projects, ranging from the nearest stars to distant galaxies. With her advisor, Associate Professor Jenny Patience, Ward-Duong is using state-of-the-art adaptive optics imaging to search for substellar companions to nearby low-mass stars to investigate how stars and planets form. Through an NSF educational grant led by Assistant Professor Evan Scannapieco, Ward-Duong is also pursuing a research project with the newly-constructed Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) to study magnetism on galactic and cosmic scales; she will travel to Europe this summer to work with scientists calibrating this new observatory.

“As a student and researcher, Kimberly stands out with her keen interest in forefront observing techniques and their astronomical applications. She is very talented mathematically and has a strong knowledge of observational astronomy across a range of wavelengths. She has the determination and the independence to be successful in her PhD research work, and I look forward to working with her over the next several years. I can see this award helping her to achieve her dream of becoming a research faculty member or staff scientist at an astronomy research institution,” says Patience.

“More than anything, this award will really allow me to focus and devote my time to research here at ASU,” says Ward-Duong. “It also gives me a great deal of freedom to choose which areas of astronomy I want to pursue, and it will open up future collaborations and research opportunities during my PhD program.”

As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the fellowship has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. Since 1952, NSF has funded over 46,500 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants. More than 30 of them have gone to become Nobel laureates, and more than 440 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and “Freakonomics” co-author Steven Levitt.


Image credit: Rob de Rosa and Joanna Bulger


(Nikki Cassis)


ASU’s new WEST program exposes students to water resource management in Sonora, Mexico

Hermosillo, the capital city of Mexico’s state of Sonora, is the largest city in the state, an important industrial hub, and the site of significant population growth in recent decades. It is also located in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, meaning that water supply is a constant concern. Recently, the state began building a 162-kilometer long aqueduct to bring more water to Hermosillo from the Yaqui River Basin, which also supplies agricultural users in Ciudad Obregon, sparking conflict between industrial water users in Hermosillo and agricultural users in Ciudad Obregon.

Enrique Vivoni, ASU associate professor, and postdoctoral research associate Agustin Robles-Morua saw this situation as a perfect opportunity to expose students to current debates in water resource management. In the summer of 2012, six ASU undergraduates and four graduate students will join Vivoni and Robles-Morua in Sonora as a part of a month-long Water and Environmental Sustainability Training (WEST) research experience funded by the National Science Foundation’s International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program.

The WEST program consists of two weeks spent in Mexico sandwiched in between two weeks spent at ASU. In the program’s first week at ASU, students will learn about the geography of the region, read and discuss relevant papers, and help prepare instruments and sampling protocols they will use in Mexico.

Students will spend their first week in Mexico traveling between Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregon to meet with government officials and representatives of major water users in both regions and learn about different sides of the complex issue.

Robles-Morua emphasizes that the timing of the project is crucial. “We wanted to start this project at the same time this big infrastructure plan by the government of Sonora was going on so that we could be part of it.”

During its second week in Mexico, the group will travel north to the rural city of Rayón, where Vivoni has been leading an experimental watershed study, in collaboration with the University of Sonora and the Technical Institute of Sonora since 2004. The site has approximately 35 rain gauge and soil moisture stations, as well as two meteorological flux towers, that capture hydrologic data at a very high resolution. Students will learn how to use these instruments, analyze the data they collect, and participate in hydrologic experiments conducted at the sites.

A big part of the program is its collaboration with Mexican universities. ASU students will be working alongside Mexican students and faculty from Hermosillo’s University of Sonora and Ciudad Obregon’s Technical Institute of Sonora, who will be examining the same issues.

Upon their return to Arizona, ASU students will spend a week giving presentations summarizing their experiences.

Along with exposing students to water management issues and hydrologic experiments, WEST will also give ASU students a unique glimpse into the early stages of water infrastructure development and problems associated with water sustainability of desert regions.

“This is an area that’s currently developing its water infrastructure projects, and you don’t really see those projects being built in the US anymore because that occurred so many years ago,” says Robles-Morua. “Most of the projects in the US are now replacing old infrastructure, whereas in Mexico, this is like starting from zero. So this is another new experience they’ll get to see.”

This is the program’s inaugural year at ASU, and the project will extend into the next two summers of 2013 and 2014. Vivoni and Robles-Morua developed the program with their Mexican collaborators, using a similar effort Vivoni had led at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology from 2006 to 2008 as a model.

The selected participants exemplify the multidisciplinary nature of the field of water resource management; students include ecologists, civil engineers, geologists, environmental engineers, and geography majors from a wide range of ASU departments and schools.

“Recently, water resource management has required a multidisciplinary approach to tackle a multidisciplinary problem,” say Robles-Morua. “We followed along on the same lines, having students from different perspectives that would provide us with different inputs during the course of the summer experience.”

(Victoria Miluch)


High-resolution photos of lava flows on Mars reveal coiling spiral patterns that resemble snail or nautilus shells. Such patterns have been found in a few locations on Earth, but never before on Mars. The discovery, made by Arizona State University graduate student Andrew Ryan, is announced in a paper published April 27, 2012, in the scientific journal Science.

The new result came out of research into possible interactions of lava flows and floods of water in the Elysium volcanic province of Mars.

"I was interested in Martian outflow channels and was particularly intrigued by Athabasca Valles and Cerberus Palus, both part of Elysium," says Ryan, who is in his first year as a graduate student in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Philip Christensen, Regents' Professor of Geological Sciences at ASU, is second author on the paper.

"Athabasca Valles has a very interesting history," Ryan says. "There's an extensive literature on the area, as well as an intriguing combination of seemingly fluvial and volcanic features." Among the features are large slabs or plates that resemble broken floes of pack ice in the Arctic Ocean on Earth. In the past, a few scientists have argued that the plates in Elysium are in fact underlain by water ice.

Looking below

Assessing those claims that ice was present today beneath the lava plates drove Ryan to study the area. "My initial goal," he says, "was to model the nighttime infrared temperatures of the plates. Then I became fascinated by the terrain lying between the plates and the high-centered polygonal patterns found there." This led him to look closely at every available image of the region.

"I examined probably 100 HiRISE images of the area," he says, referring to the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. In addition, he pored over daytime and nighttime infrared and visual images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on Mars Odyssey orbiter. (Christensen is THEMIS' principal investigator.) Images taken by the Context Camera (CTX) on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express, and the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on Mars Global Surveyor were all studied as well.

Picture this

"One evening," Ryan recounts, "I was making a second pass over the HiRISE images when I first noticed puzzling spiral patterns in an image near the southern margin of Cerberus Palus. I actually nearly overlooked that particular frame, thinking that it might not be too useful, being so far away from main study area farther north."

He notes, "The coils become noticeable in the full-resolution HiRISE image only when you really zoom in. They also tend to blend in with the rest of the light-gray terrain – that is, until you stretch the contrast a bit.

"I don't find it surprising that these were overlooked in the past. I nearly missed them too."

Curling lava

On Earth, lava coils can be found on the Big Island of Hawaii, mainly on the surface of ropey pahoehoe lava flows. They have also been seen in submarine lava flows near the Galapagos Rift on the Pacific Ocean floor.

As Ryan explains, "The coils form on flows where there's a shear stress – where flows move past each other at different speeds or in different directions. Pieces of rubbery and plastic lava crust can either be peeled away and physically coiled up – or wrinkles in the lava's thin crust can be twisted around."

Similarly, he notes that scientists have documented the formation of rotated pieces of oceanic crust at mid-ocean ridge spreading centers. "Since the surface of active lava lakes, such as those on Hawaii, can have crustal acti

vity like spreading centers do, it's conceivable that lava coils may form there in a similar way, but at a smaller scale."

The size of Martian lava coils came as a surprise. "On Mars the largest lava coil is 30 meters across – that's 100 feet. That's bigger than any known lava coils on Earth," he says. Ryan and Christensen's work has inventoried nearly 200 lava coils in the Cerberus Palus region alone.

Looking ahead, Ryan says, "Lava coils may be present in other Martian volcanic provinces or in outflow channels mantled by volcanic features. I expect that we'll find quite a few more in Elysium as the HiRISE image coverage grows over time."


Caption: Cooling lava on Mars can form patterns like snail shells when the lava is pulled in two directions at once. Such patterns, rare on Earth, have never before been seen on Mars. This image, with more than a dozen lava coils visible, shows an area in a volcanic region named Cerberus Palus that is about 500 meters (1640 feet) wide. Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA

(Robert Burnham)


New study reveals dark patches on Mars are weathered glass deposits

If you look at a map of Mars, you will see a mosaic of dark patches and lighter spots covering the planet. The various shades represent different sediments, but the exact composition of those sediments is something scientists are still trying to figure out. As a result of a study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University, scientists are one step closer to understanding the geology of the red planet.

In a study published in the journal Geology, School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) Professor Jim Bell and SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow Briony Horgan report that the Martian northern lowlands are largely composed of chemically weathered glass.

Horgan and Bell began their research by collecting spectra data from the OMEGA imaging spectrometer on board the European Mars Express spacecraft. Because Mars Express is in an elliptical orbit, the spacecraft makes close passes over different areas of Mars, producing images from different times and elevations. The team used those images to produce a single map of the northern lowlands, and incorporated spectral data into that map. Translating spectral data, often represented in graphs, onto images made the spectra easier to analyze.

Once the team had the spectra mapped, they began to investigate the iron mineralogy of the sediments. The researchers found that the spectra they were observing had signatures that were consistent with a glass-rich composition.

“Glass is iron bearing, and it looks a lot like olivine and pyroxene, but it’s different enough that we can tell it apart,” explained Horgan. “When we started mapping this stuff out, we found that basically all of Acidalia Planitia, most of the north polar sand sea, and all of Utopia Planitia had that same glass signature. In total, that’s over ten million square kilometers of glassy surfaces.”

Based on lab studies, the team was able to determine that glass content of the sediments was approximately 80 to 90 percent.

“We hadn’t conclusively detected glass before on Mars,” said Horgan. “People had inferred that it must be there, since impacts and volcanoes create glass, but nobody had actually directly identified it before. So that begged the question—where did this stuff come from?”

Meteorite impacts can create glass, but usually not in the high concentrations that Horgan and Bell observed. Volcanoes, however, have the potential to create extremely large quantities of glass, especially explosive volcanoes that interact with ice and water.

Horgan and Bell used Iceland, a location where explosive volcanoes are common, as an analog to hypothesize about the conditions that could have produced the Martian glass they found.

Volcanoes in Iceland erupt underneath glaciers, and the interactions between water from the glaciers and lava from the volcanoes create incredibly explosive eruptions. The lava fragments, and transforms into particles of glass. Huge sand dunes and sand plain fields form that consist of 50 to 70 percent glass. Horgan and Bell hypothesize that the same process occurred during periods of volcanism on Mars.

This possibility presents an interesting new idea of Martian geologic history. Previously, mineral mapping evidence has been interpreted to indicate that most volcanism on Mars has been effusive (dominated by lava flows). These findings support the idea that explosive volcanism was also important in the planet's past, perhaps more important than previously thought.

Another intriguing finding is that the glass Horgan and Bell observed has been chemically weathered.

“When we see these glassy spectra, we also see a spectral signature that’s consistent with what happens when you expose glass to acid,” explained Horgan. “What that means is that these huge deposits are not only unique in that they indicate explosive volcanism, they also have experienced interactions with water.”

The northern lowlands were formed in the Amazonian epoch, the current and most recent geologic epoch on Mars. Scientists think of this epoch, which has lasted for approximately three billion years, as a very dry era, dominated by ice and snow. Horgan and Bell suggest that the chemical weathering observed on the glass is a result of melt from ice and snow during this epoch.

One question that begs further investigation is the exact nature of the glass deposits. Researchers are unsure of whether the northern lowlands are covered in a thick deposit of glass, or just a thin layer. The team also wants to see if sand dunes in other areas of Mars also exhibit these same glassy signatures. This could provide more support for the hypothesis of explosive volcanism on Mars.

Currently, the team at ASU is working on extending its map of Mars to cover the entire planet in order to explore some of the new avenues of research this study opens.

“The best you can do sometimes is to put these questions out there and intrigue your colleagues to get them to poke into it a little more,” said Bell. “And we’ll do some of that poking ourselves. There’s the whole rest of the planet to map.”


Caption: Dusty, glass-rich sand dunes in Siton Undae, just south of the north polar cap.

(Victoria Miluch)


On February 29, 2012, a ceremony was held to dedicate the new Southwestern Center for Aberration Corrected Electron Microscopy, the most recent addition to the LeRoy-Eyring Center for Solid State Science’s facilities.

The microscopes housed in the new center include a JEOL ARM200F STEM, a
Nion UltraSTEM with Monochromator, and a JEOL 2010 TEM/STEM. These advanced tools have applications that range from physics to geology to life sciences.

Professor Ray Carpenter, who secured a National Science Foundation grant of more than 5 million dollars to purchase the JEOL ARM200F and the Nion UltraSTEM, spoke about the progression of the building’s construction at the ceremony. The project germinated six years ago, beginning a process of proposals, plans, design, and construction. The building itself took three months to design and six months to build, and represents one of the most advanced microscopy facilities in the nation.

“The only other comparable tools are in national labs,” said SESE Professor Tom Sharp, director of the LeRoy-Eyring Center for Solid State Science.

Because the facility is housed on an urban campus and in Arizona’s challenging environment, designers needed to take special measures to ensure the building’s stability. The sensitivity of the facility’s tools requires a very specific environment of no noise or vibrations, no electromagnetic fields as well as a constant temperature. The building was designed specifically to accommodate these conditions.

The center is an open facility for anyone on ASU’s campus, other institutions, as well as outside industry. ASU’s state-of-the-art facilities not only help expand faculty’s research capabilities, but provide others in academia and members of industry with vital services for creating developments in materials science.

Aberration correction of the electron beam results in a very small (~ 1Å) beam with sufficient intensity to allow scientists to simultaneously collect images of structure and chemical composition at the atomic scale. This is important for understanding structure and bonding in materials and at crystal imperfections that are important in the physical properties of materials. Aberration correction also allows scientists to bypass certain limitations. In traditional electron microscopes, high-resolution images are obtained by using very high accelerating voltages, but some materials cannot stand up to such voltages. Because the center’s new microscopes’ resolutions do not depend on energy, sensitive materials no longer pose a problem. Atomic resolution images can be obtained with relatively low accelerating voltages.

“It represents a very significant advance in our ability to solve many problems in materials and solid-state science,” said Sharp.

The dedication ceremony included speeches from Sethuraman Panchananthan, senior vice president of the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development; Michael Crow, ASU president; and professors Sharp and Carpenter. Members of industry and others were invited for tours of the new microscopy building after the dedication.

“This is a landmark event that not only celebrates the future, but the past as well,” said Panchanathan at the building’s dedication ceremony.

The Leroy-Eyring Center for Solid State Science was established by the Board of Regents in 1974, and has been providing academia and industry with state-of-the-art analytical facilities and services for decades. Today, the center includes over 50 different instruments, and has more than 200 different users. The center’s new addition promises to expand the potential for research even further.

Watch video

(Victoria Miluch)

Photo by Tom Story


Lawrence Krauss has spent much of his lifetime trying to solve the riddles nature has put before us. He also spends a lot of his time communicating the complexities of nature and its hidden beauty to a wider public.

Those latter efforts have earned Krauss, who is a Foundation Professor in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics, the 2012 Public Service Award from the National Science Board. The NSB is the 25-member policymaking body for the National Science Foundation and advisory body to the President and Congress on science and engineering issues.

The NSB Public Service Award honors individuals and groups that have made substantial contributions to increasing public understanding of science and engineering in the United States. Previous winners include Alan Alda, host of Scientific American Frontiers; Ira Flatow, host of National Public Radio’s Science Friday; and Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel Corp.

Throughout his career, Krauss, a renowned theoretical physicist, has taken elements of popular culture and used them as starting points to convey scientific ideas and turn on in individuals the desire to know more.

To that end, he has written several best-selling books, lectures extensively, writes for national newspapers and magazines, appears on radio and television, and convenes meetings with leading intellectuals talking physics, cosmology, nuclear security, social psychology, creativity, our place in the universe and why we (and the universe) even exist at all. He has been hailed by Scientific American as a rare “public intellectual.”

“Lawrence Krauss’ broad public outreach bridges science and popular culture through various media and intellectual pursuits, and we are proud to name him as the recipient of the 2012 NSB Public Service Award presented to an individual,” said Ray Bowen, NSB chairman.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this remarkable national award from the National Science Board,” Krauss said. “I will count this as one of the highest honors I have received. Science is the greatest intellectual adventure that I can imagine, and it involves some of the most exciting and awe-inspiring discoveries and ideas that humans have come up with, which is why I am so excited to be part of the enterprise.”

“I believe we owe it to the public to share these ideas more broadly,” he added. “Most people are actually fascinated by science once they realize that the questions they have always asked themselves really are scientific questions. This is what I have tried to encourage. And in the 21st century, we need to encourage greater scientific literacy among the public and among our political leaders if we are to address the numerous global challenges we face.”

Krauss has authored more than 300 scientific publications and nine books, including the international bestseller "The Physics of Star Trek," an entertaining and eye-opening tour of the Star Trek universe, and "Beyond Star Trek," which responds to recent exciting discoveries in physics and astronomy and takes a look how the laws of physics relate to notions from popular culture. A recent book on physicist Richard Feynman, "Quantum Man," was awarded the 2011 Book of the Year by Physics World magazine in the UK.

His most recent bestseller, "A Universe from Nothing," offers provocative, revelatory answers to the most basic philosophical questions of existence. It was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for nonfiction within a week of its release.

In addition to being a professor at ASU, Krauss is the director of the Origins Project, which explores key questions about our origins, who we are and where we came from, and then holds open forums to encourage public participation.

Krauss has been a frequent commentator and columnist for newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He has written regular columns for New Scientist and Scientific American, and appears routinely on radio and television.

He continues to be a leader in his field as he serves as a co-chair of the board of sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, on the board of directors of the Federation of American Scientists, and is one of the founders of ScienceDebate2012.

Additionally, he performed solo with the Cleveland Orchestra, narrating Gustav Holst's "The Planets" at the Blossom Music Center for the most highly attended concert at that venue. Krauss also received a Grammy nomination for his liner notes for a Telarc CD of music from "Star Trek" and served as a judge at the Sundance Film Festival.

Krauss is internationally known for his work in theoretical physics – he is the only physicist to receive major awards from all three U.S. physics societies: the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Krauss will receive the NSB Public Service Award for an individual medal and certificate at an awards ceremony and dinner on May 3 at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. Other honorees will include the recipients of the Vannevar Bush Award, the NSB Public Service Award for a group and National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award.


(Skip Derra)