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Wyatt DuFrane, MSc, 2000; PhD in Geological Sciences, 2010

Wyatt DuFrane

In 2002, Wyatt received his BS in Physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and in 2005 his MS and in 2010 his Ph.D. both in Geological Sciences at ASU. Below is Wyatt's profile, in his own words:

In grade school I did pretty poorly in subjects that were subjectively graded like literature, history, and social sciences. Admittedly, I was a huge pain in the rear for most of my elementary school teachers, and so they probably graded me a bit more harshly. This set up a cycle of frustration (mutual, I’m sure) that caused me to fall behind in those subjects. On the other hand, math and science has always made far more sense to me, because the homework and test answers are generally definite and objective. So I did really well in those subjects, despite frequently acting out in class. Mainly I was more motivated to work hard in math and science because the direct relationship between the work I put in and what I got out of it was more gratifying to me.

I’ve always been fascinated by nature and have always been compelled to understand how things work in day to day life and throughout nature. As you learn these things you view the world a little differently. This drew me to physics, because as a discipline it probably gives the broadest overlook on how nature works, but a lot of modern physics verges on being highly theoretical. I really enjoyed both solid state physics and thermodynamics, because although the concepts are abstract they’re still firmly gripped in day to day reality, affecting macroscopic properties that can be seen and appreciated with your naked eye.

During my time at ASU, I chose to study mineral physics, which is closely related to both of these fields. I was in absolute awe of what implications can be gleaned about whole, entire planets from the data collected on atomic level phenomena occurring within the defects in the crystal structures of tiny little mineral samples. Plus it’s a lot of fun to effectively take miniature pieces of the mantle down to great depths by simulating harsh pressures, temperatures, and chemical conditions of the inside of Earth and other planetary bodies.

My then girlfriend, and now wife, Alice has been incredibly supportive. She helped me manage my stress and achieve work-life balance during my last few years at ASU. After I graduated she took a bit of a leap of faith and moved to California with no job, so that I could begin a postdoc position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Fortunately, she quickly found a great job in her field too that she loves.

The toughest part of my SESE experience was simultaneously managing the expectations and holding the attention of my two advisors, Jim Tyburczy and Tom Sharp. It was a tricky and delicate balance.

During my seven years at ASU I produced a pretty enormous amount of data, but my research would have benefitted from having more patience to thoroughly analyze my results as they were collected. I definitely could have benefitted from thinking much more carefully about a publication strategy earlier on in the research. I highly recommend meeting regularly with your advisor(s) to discuss your research, even if it means having to hunt them down and kick their office doors in. Okay, maybe don’t do that last part.

Having two advisors and essentially three different projects during my time at ASU was a blessing and a curse. Often times it was stressful, but it turned out to be excellent training for fast paced and hectic work environment of the national lab. I’ve worked on a huge array of projects in the approximately five years I’ve been at LLNL. Funding situations can be somewhat fluid here, and so it has helped me immensely to be able to ramp up quickly to produce quality data from carefully controlled experiments. My versatility has allowed me to contribute to a smorgasbord of interesting projects, while maintaining active funding, research, and collaborations in the field of mineral physics. People here took notice and it led to my being hired from a postdoc into a permanent staff position in the Materials Science Division.