Guy Hovis, John Markle Professor of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, has received a $265,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase an x-ray powder diffraction (XRPD) unit to support ongoing research that has been funded by the NSF for more than 35 years.
Hovis works on solution calorimetric research, which measures the heat generated when a substance is dissolved. The XRPD will help identify minerals of various kinds when a solid or liquid is dissolved.
The unit will also support student-oriented research measuring the volumes of natural minerals from room temperature to over 1,000 °C.
“Most of the previous data has been collected at the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University,” says Hovis. “Now we’ll be able to make these measurements here at Lafayette. This state-of-the-art x-ray powder diffraction unit will serve the College and its students for the next 20-25 years. The potential for meaningful student and faculty research is tremendous.”
In recent years, Anthony Romanoski ’10, Allison Tether ’10, Aaron Medford ’11, and Maricate Conlon ’11 completed research on thermal expansion – the tendency of matter to change in volume in response to a change in temperature – with Hovis and co-authored articles. Geology majors Brian Scott ’12 (Farmingdale, N.J.) and Caitlin Altomare ’14 (West Boylston, Mass.) worked with Hovis on another branch of this research this summer.
Along with these types of research opportunities, students in the department of geology & environmental geosciences will learn to use the new x-ray diffraction unit as part of the Earth and Planetary Materials course through multiple exercises.
The College is expected to receive the equipment in late winter or early spring 2012.
“A principal focus of geologic research is to learn about and interpret Earth history,” explains Hovis. “This research makes a contribution to this mission. We also are trying to learn basic principles about how the atomic structures of solids operate.”
Hovis joined the faculty in 1974. He earned his A.B. from Franklin and Marshall College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University. From 1990-1992 he served as the program director for the petrology and geochemistry program at the NSF. Hovis currently teaches From Fire to Ice: An Introduction to Geology, Earth and Planetary Materials, Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, and Geochemistry. With research interests in thermodynamics of minerals, liquids (glasses), and mineralogical processes, hydrofluoric acid solution calorimetry, thermal expansion of minerals, and phase equilibria, Hovis has received continuous grants from the NSF since 1976, totaling $1.61 million.