More than 100 years ago the Carnegie Institution of Washington (now known as Carnegie Science) was formed to “encourage, in the broadest and most liberal manner, investigation, research and discovery and the application of knowledge to the improvement of [hu]mankind.” As Staff Members of the Geophysical Laboratory we embrace these foundational principles and foster an environment in which each Staff Member is able to explore the most intriguing scientific questions in an atmosphere of complete freedom.
While scientific directions are flexible and will change over time, current research at GL can be broadly classified within three interest areas, namely, Earth and Planetary Science, Astrobiology, and Chemistry and Physics of Materials. The overlap amongst the interest areas illustrates the common themes between scientific questions being undertaken at GL and each GL scientist is encouraged to move among and beyond these areas as desired.
Our current research attempts to answer the following questions, in no particular order and with the emphasis that many research questions overlap several interest areas:
Earth and Planetary Sciences
How do the chemical and thermal evolution of undifferentiated planetesimals and the mantles and cores of differentiated planetesimals control formation and evolution of terrestrial planets? Is there a defining chemistry associated with core formation? Why are the four terrestrial planets so different?
How does mass and energy transport in Earth govern planetary formation and evolution?
How can we best predict theoretically the properties of Earth, planetary, and exoplanetary materials (minerals and fluids)?
How do deep Earth volatiles enable and control recycling in a plate tectonic platform? What is the speciation, transport, and sequestration mechanisms of volatile components (C, O, N, H)?
What new science can be done with stable isotopologues now that we can measure new ratios with extreme precision? For example, does the Moon truly have the same oxygen isotopic ratio as Earth? Can we distinguish between abiotic vs. microbial synthesis of methane?
How can we understand the origin of life on Earth and the abiotic/biotic transition in general in order to look for life elsewhere in the Solar System? What are the limits of biology in extreme environments, from the molecular to organism level?
To what extent does the cycling of volatiles in an emerging and evolving planet impact the impetus to develop and sustain life?
How do interacting complex systems co-evolve: in particular, what positive and negative feedbacks have influenced Earth's co-evolving geosphere and biosphere?
How is the origin and evolution of life connected to the origin and evolution of Earth?
What are the forms simple molecules and their aggregates take at the conditions of planetary interiors?
Chemistry and Physics of Materials
How far can we extend the limits of extreme environments in understanding chemistry and physics of materials?
Can we exploit the conditions of extreme environments to aid the synthesis of new materials with properties that may benefit energy and other societal needs? How do extreme conditions help constrain the origins of material behavior?
How does fundamental chemistry change in extreme conditions, in terms of chemical structure, bonding, reactivity, thermodynamics, and kinetics?
What new materials/phenomena exist under extreme conditions, and how can we synthesize, understand, and ultimately design property-specific materials from first principles of physics?
Can room temperature superconductivity be achieved?