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The Earth and Planetary Materials Group led by PI Nicholas Dygert uses high-pressure, high-temperature experiments, studies of natural samples, and dynamical models to understand the formation and evolution of planetary interiors. Our focus is the Earth and Moon, but we work on problems across the Solar System, including Mercury and the asteroid belt. You can learn more about our research here, and on X (formerly Twitter) @NickDygert.


7-16-24: Dygert gave a seminar at the University of Tokyo on ocean island basalts from Walvis Ridge and the oxygen fugacity of the MORB mantle.

7-12-24: Dygert and Jesse Scholpp are visiting Hirochika Sumino’s lab at the University of Tokyo. They will analyze noble gas isotopes in samples recovered from Walvis Ridge.

7-1-24: New PhD students George Denny and Anah Bogdan started their appointments. Welcome, Anah and George!

6-5-24: Chris O’Connell will be visiting from Colgate this month to work on lunar anorthosites. Welcome, Chris!

5-21-24: Dygert was elected to serve on the College Curriculum Committee.

5-17-24: Undergraduate researcher Jordan Marshall is moving on to the PhD program in Materials Engineering at the University of Tennessee. Congratulations, Jordan!

5-2-24: The group cleaned up at Awards Day. Jesse Scholpp won the professional promise award by vote of the faculty. Emily Etheridge won an outstanding TA award, best PhD presentation award and the Geoclub’s professional promise award. Jordan Marshall won the Otto Kopp research award for his experimental work. Congratulations, all!

4-15-24: Jesse Scholpp’s manuscript on lunar melt-rock reaction experiments was accepted for publication in Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology. Congratulations, Jesse!

4-8-24: New paper in Nature Communications: Dygert and collaborators Roger Nielsen and Gokce Ustunisik analyzed Eu distributions in plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions which suggest that partial melting reduces the mantle, reconciling oxygen fugacities of oceanic crust and peridotites.

3-25-24: Dygert received an Excellence in Research Award from the University of Tennessee College of Arts and Sciences.

3-14-24: Group members gave three talks and a poster presentation at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

2-6-24: Jesse Scholpp received a Lunar and Planetary Institute Career Development Award. Congratulations, Jesse!

1-9-24: The group submitted four abstracts to the 2024 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Dygert coauthored a fifth abstract with colleague Ping Wang.

12-4-23: New Views of the Moon II is out! Dygert coauthored a chapter on initial lunar differentiation.

11-30-23: Jena Samano successfully defended her MS thesis on the thermal and chemical structure of the lithosphere beneath Kilbourne Hole. Congratulations, Jena!

11-3-23: Dian Ji’s paper on apatite-melt trace element partitioning was accepted for publication in Geochimica et Cosmochimia Acta!

10-28-23: Dygert led a new mineralogy field trip to Mt. Rogers, VA, to highlight ~500 million years of geologic history, including Mesoproterozoic Cranberry Gneiss, Snowball Earth diamictites and flood basalts and rhyolites associated with opening of the Iapetus ocean.

10-15-23: Dygert gave an invited talk at the GSA meeting in Pittsburgh on the significance of divergent thermal histories of ophiolitic and abyssal peridotites.

8-1-23: Dygert was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor.

7-13-23: Dygert gave an invited talk at the Goldschmidt conference in Lyon.

7-12-23: Dygert and PhD student Jesse Scholpp were awarded an NSF grant to investigate the oxygen fugacity and noble gas isotopic compositions of basalts from Walvis Ridge hotspot!

7-6-23: Dian Ji defended his MS Thesis! Congratulations, Dian! Dian is going on to the PhD program at Rice University.

6-22-23: Megan Mouser’s paper on the potential for cumulate mantle overturn in planet Mercury was accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets.

6-20-23: Dygert conducted outreach at Knoxville Montessori School on the layers in Earth’s interior.

5-11-23: RASSLE team selected for SSERVI funding! The proposal was led by Dana Hurley at JHU-APL. As team members, Dygert and a graduate student will investigate the chemical and isotopic evolution of the lunar surface and interior in preparation for interpretation of samples returned by the Artemis program.

5-3-23: MS Student Dian Ji was awarded a competitive MSA grant in in Mineralogy-Petrology Research! Congratulations, Dian!

4-18-23: Undergraduate Researcher Jordan Marshall was awarded a prestigious Leadership Alliance Summer Research Fellowship at the University of Colorado Boulder to work on green energy battery technology. Congratulations, Jordan!

3-28-23: Emily Etheridge will join the group this fall! Emily will pursue a PhD. She was an LPI intern, where she characterized the high temperature thermal histories of enstatite chondrites and aubrites. Welcome, Emily!

3-13-23: Jesse Scholpp and Dian Ji presented well received talks at LPSC.

2-16-23: Olivia Wilkerson and Maxwell Barnard joined the group to work on the oxygen fugacity and petrogenesis of basalts from Walvis Ridge hotspot. Welcome, Olivia and Maxwell!

1-10-23: The group submitted four abstracts to LPSC!

12-7-22: MS student Dian Ji’s paper was accepted in Earth and Planetary Science Letters! The study demonstrates the lunar crust experienced thermal metamorphism after it precipitated from a magma ocean, and suggests the bulk Moon is light rare earth element depleted.

10-24-22: PhD student Megan Mouser successfully defended her Dissertation! Congratulations, Megan! Megan will move on to a postdoc at the Carnegie Institution in December.

10-24-22: New article accepted for publication in Meteoritics and Planetary Science! Former postdoc Mike Lucas led the study on the thermal and chemical evolution of the acapulcoite-lodranite parent asteroid.

10-6-22: Xenolith sampling in New Mexico! The group sampled peridotites, granulites and gabbros from five localities along the Rio Grande Rift and Jemez Lineament.

9-9-22: Undergraduate student Jordan Marshall joined the group. Jordan will work on trace element partitioning in Mercurian systems. Welcome, Jordan!

9-5-22: PhD student Megan Mouser accepted an offer to start a postdoc at the Carnegie Institution working with Yingwei Fei on magma oceans. Congratulations, Megan!

7-15-22: Undergraduate researcher Noah Hooper shipped off to Brown for graduate school. Good luck Noah, make us proud!

7-12-22: PhD student Jesse Scholpp was awarded a total of ~$24,000 to investigate compositions of and oxygen fugacities recorded by oceanic basalts recovered from Walvis Ridge hotspot! Congratulations, Jesse!

6-22-22: Nadine Grambling successfully defended her dissertation! Congratulations, Nadine!

5-31-22: Máté Garai joined the group! Máté is a visiting undergraduate researcher from Sewanee. He’ll be investigating the thermal and physical evolution of asteroid Vesta through study of cumulate eucrite meteorites. Welcome, Máté!

5-5-22: Three group members received departmental awards! PhD student Megan Mouser won the Professional Promise award; Noah Hooper won the Outstanding Senior award (among other awards), and Dian Ji received the most outstanding seminar award at the MS level. Congratulations, Megan, Noah and Dian!

5-2-22: Undergraduate researcher Noah Hooper received a University award for presentation of his research on metal flotation on silicate liquid. Congratulations, Noah!

4-15-22: Dygert gave a seminar at Michigan State entitled Going to Pieces: Catastrophic Collisions in the Early Solar System.

4-4-22: New collaborative paper on aubrites accepted for publication in Meteoritics and Planetary Science! The study was led by Zöe Wilbur at the University of Arizona.

3-27-22: New collaborative paper on the significance of chemical variations across the crust-mantle transition zone, as sampled by the Oman Drilling Project! The work was led by Dr. Fatna Kourim. Check it out here.

3-16-22: Noah Hooper is going on to pursue a PhD at Brown! Noah has been an undergraduate researcher in the group for the past year. He built a gas mixing furnace temperature control system, conducted SIMS analyses of volatiles in experimentally produced metals, and presented on his work at LPSC. Congratulations, Noah!

3-7-22: LPSC week! Group members presented on six projects at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston.

2-28-22: Dygert gave a seminar at the University of Mississippi on evidence for early asteroidal collisions in meteorites.

2-22-22: Dygert gave a seminar at Penn State on lunar differentiation.

1-17-22: New article accepted in Icarus! This work led by collaborators at UT Austin explores the physical properties of asteroidal fragments after collisional disruption of their parent bodies. Check it out here.

1-11-22: The group submitted six abstracts to LPSC! A seventh abstract was submitted by our collaborators at UT Austin.

12-14-21: Dygert gave a talk at the AGU meeting in New Orleans on oxygen fugacities recorded by plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions.

12-10-21: Nadine’s first first-authored paper was accepted for publication in JGR Solid Earth! It will be part of the Oman Drilling Project special issue. Check it out here.

12-8-21: Jesse Scholpp boarded the Joides Resolution in Cape Town, South Africa! He will be investigating the Walvis Ridge hotspot as part of the IODP Expedition 391 Science Party.

10-20-21: Megan’s first first-authored paper was accepted in JGR Planets! Check it out here.

10-18-21: PhD student Megan Mouser begins an internship at Argonne National Laboratory!

9-13-21: Postdoc Brendan Anzures is joining the lab! Brendan will be working on thermal histories and sulfur speciation in reduced meteorites.

8-2-21: Lab visitors from Sewanee! Lily Thompson and three student researchers ran piston cylinder experiments and characterized two unstudied meteorites.

7-16-21: Taryn Hicks was admitted to the MS program at Auburn University! Congratulations, Taryn!

7-7-21: Dygert received his first NSF award! In collaboration with Bob Stern, Veronique Le Roux, and Emily Chin, the project will sample the Challenger Deep forearc.

7-6-21: MS student Dian Ji gave a great talk at the 2021 Goldschmidt meeting!

7-5-21: Postdoc Michael Lucas moved on to a research position at Notre Dame! Congrats Mike, and good luck!

6-14-21: Asteroid named after Postdoc Michael Lucas! (38044) Michaellucas, Congratulations, Mike!

6-1-21: Undergraduate researcher Noah Hooper joined the group! Noah is working on construction of a gas mixing furnace and a project investigating the potential for metal flotation on silicate melt.

5-7-21: Graduate student Dian Ji arrived in Knoxville!

4-23-21: Jena Samano is joining the group! Jena will be working toward her MS and is co-advised by Dygert and Prof. Molly McCanta. Welcome, Jena!

4-9-21: Dygert presented a seminar at South Dakota School of Mines on the formation of oceanic lithosphere.

4-1-21: Beau Boring is going to graduate school at Brown! Beau has been working with the group for the past three years as an undergraduate researcher. Congratulations, Beau!

3-29-21: NASA COVID augmentation awarded to support Mike Lucas and our work on thermal histories of meteorite parent asteroids!

3-26-21: Dygert presented an outreach talk at UT Science Forum titled Going to Pieces: Catastrophic Collisions in the Early Solar System.

3-23-21: Jena Samano will be joining the group this fall on the MS track! Jena will be coadvised by Dygert and Molly McCanta. Welcome, Jena!

3-19-21: PhD student Jesse Scholpp is joining the shipboard science party for IODP Expedition 391 to Walvis Ridge hotspot! Congratulations, Jesse!

3-19-21: Lucas, Mouser, and Dygert presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Dygert also chaired a session on lunar samples.

1-20-20: The spring semester starts, Dygert is teaching a seminar called New Views of the Moon.

1-12-21: Four LPSC abstracts submitted to the 2021 meeting, three led by EPMP and one with collaborators at UT Austin.

1-10-21: Full page feature on our ordinary chondrite work in the January issue of Physics Today!

12-9-20: Paper on the significance of mantle exposures in the lunar South Pole Basin accepted in JGR-Planets!

12-3-20: Paper on pressure and Mg# dependence of ilmenite rheology accepted in JGR-Planets!

12-2-20: Media release on our study of ordinary chondrite parent asteroid thermal histories came out!

11-15-20: Dygert ran remote Paris-Edinburgh experiments at Argonne National Lab.

9-24-20: Megan Mouser earned her Concurrent Master’s! Megan started on the MS track and transitioned to the PhD in summer 2019. She submitted her Master’s project on Mercury’s magma ocean to JGR – Planets.

9-8-20: Postdoc Mike Lucas’ paper on the thermal histories of ordinary chondrites (OCs) was accepted in GCA! His work demonstrates that OC parent bodies were catastrophically fragmented at high temperature shortly after the formation of the Solar System, and then gravitationally reassembled to form rubble pile bodies.

8-1-20: Four abstracts submitted to AGU and GSA. First authors are Megan Mouser, Nadine Grambling and Mike Lucas, and our collaborators at UT Austin Jialong Ren and Marc Hesse.

6-30-20: PhD student Megan Mouser passed her preliminary exam. Congratulations, Megan!

6-26-20: Back in the lab! Beau Boring and Dygert put up a piston cylinder run exploring trace element partitioning in Mercurian systems.

6-25-20: Postdoc Mike Lucas submitted his manuscript on the high temperature thermal history of ordinary chondrites! Mike’s work shows that all three ordinary chondrite parent asteroids were catastrophically fragmented at high temperatures.

4-7-20: Dian Ji will be joining the group on the MS track this fall! Dian is currently an undergraduate at the China University of Petroleum, in Beijing. Dian recently authored an interesting paper on adakites. Welcome, Dian!

3-25-20: Manuscript on plagioclase-melt partitioning was accepted for publication in GCA! The paper includes predictive models for Eu partitioning as a function of oxygen fugacity, and a Eu-in-plagioclase-melt oxybarometer.

3-23-20: To combat COVID-19, UT transitioned to online teaching. So far so good!

3-9-20: Jesse Scholpp will be joining the group on the PhD track this fall! Jesse is currently an MS student at Utah State University working with John Shervais. Welcome, Jesse!

2-7-20: Dygert gave a colloquium in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago on the differentiation history of the Moon.

2-3-20: Nadine Grambling passed her qualifying exam!

1-8-20: The spring semester started. Dygert is teaching Exploring the Planets.

12-9-19: The EPMP group attended the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting! Mike Lucas, Nadine Grambling, Beau Boring and Dygert presented on current research. Dygert also convened the session Rates and Timescales of Magmatic and Dynamic Processes: Insights from Thermobarometry and Geospeedometry.

10-7-19: Dygert and Megan Mouser visited Argonne National Lab to run experiments! We measured the viscosity and structure of a Mercurian magma ocean analogue.

10-1-19: Manuscript accepted by JGR Solid Earth! This paper explores the possibility of a compacting cumulate pile at the boundary between Earth’s inner and outer core.

9-29-19: NASA proposal was selected! We will run melt-rock reaction and trace element partitioning experiments to explore lunar geodynamics using the compositions of basalts returned by the Apollo program.

9-19-19: Nadine visited Emily Chin’s lab at Scripps to characterize her rock deformation experiments using electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD).

8-28-19: Brandon Boring presented his research on the thermal history of Antarctic lithosphere at UTK’s Discovery Day.

8-20-19: Dygert was named the Larry and Dawn Taylor Assistant Professor of Planetary Geosciences!

8-1-19: Dygert took over as PI of UTK Space Grant. The program funds community outreach and planetary science and engineering research.

7-15-19: We ran our first successful piston cylinder experiment!

6-15-19: PhD student Nadine Grambling returned from a 6-week visit to Brown University, where she ran rock deformation experiments exploring the rheology of the lunar mantle.

6-1-19: Three undergraduates are conducting Space Grant funded summer research with the group! Brandon Boring is looking into the thermal history of lithosphere beneath Ross Island, Antarctica. Taryn Hicks is investigating the tectonic evolution of subcontinental mantle in southwest North America. Kenley Prescher will explore the effect of oxygen fugacity on Eu partitioning between lunar-relevant silicate minerals and melts.

4-25-19: Dygert received a Teaching Award from the UT Geoclub!

4-17-19: Undergraduate researcher Joseph Nuttall presented his work on deformed mantle xenoliths from Baja California at UT’s EURēCA symposium.

4-10-19: Article on lunar cumulate mantle overturn was accepted in JGR – Planets!

3-19-19: Mouser, Lucas and Dygert presented at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference!

3-1-19: UTK undergrad Joseph Nuttall and Dygert visited the CEMS lab at the University of South Carolina! We measured trace elements in mantle xenoliths from Baja California by LA-HR-ICP-MS.

1-29-19: Three abstracts from our group were accepted for presentation at LPSC! Megan Mouser (#2030): Mercury magma ocean liquid viscosity, Mike Lucas (#2495): Thermal history of chondrites, Dygert (#2798): Dynamic sinking of ilmenite-bearing cumulates during lunar magma ocean solidification.

1-10-19: Article on deformed mantle xenoliths from central Nevada was accepted! These xenoliths may directly sample an active Rayleigh-Taylor instability.

12-14-18: Grambling and Dygert presented their research at the AGU Fall Meeting in Washington DC. Nadine had a talk in the Oman Drilling Project session; Nick presented a poster on noble gas fractionation and an invited talk on deformed mantle xenoliths from the Great Basin.

10-22-18: Megan Mouser and Nadine Grambling conducted a successful round of viscometry experiments at Argonne National Lab.

10-9-18: Article on the Spongtang ophiolite was accepted! We place new constraints on the formation, age, and thermal history of this remote ophiolite in northwest India.

9-17-18: Postdoc Mike Lucas joined the group! Mike has a background in igneous petrology and astronomy and will be working on the thermal history of asteroids. Welcome, Mike!

9-7-18: NASA Solar System Workings proposal was selected! The grant will fund collaborative research with Hap McSween and Marc Hesse (UT Austin).

8-1-18: Dygert and Grambling traveled to Japan to participate in Oman Drilling Project core description activities aboard D/V Chikyu.

7-20-18: New paper on kinetic fractionation of noble gases in the mantle was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Check it out!

5-25-18: Dygert gave a seminar at Case Western Reserve University entitled Early Evolution of the Moon: New Insights from the Lab.

5-3-18: Warren Ehrenfried, Chris Wilson and Joseph Nuttall joined the group to participate in summer research experiences funded by the Tennessee Space Grant. They are working on P-T-stress conditions recorded by peridotite xenoliths from kimberlite pipes, decarbonation and shock metamorphism of Flynn Creek impact structure target rocks, and the thermal history of the mantle beneath western North America.

4-18-18: Dygert presented a talk for the ORION Science and Astronomy Group entitled Early Evolution of the Moon.

3-30-18: Dygert gave a seminar at the University of Georgia entitled New Insights into the Accretion of Oceanic Lithosphere.

3-23-18: Megan Mouser and Nick Dygert attended the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference to showcase their research. Megan presented a poster on a lunar granite and Nick gave a talk on the thermal history of the LL chondrite parent asteroid.

3-8-18: Dygert traveled to Oman and joined the Oman Drilling Project science party.

2-22-18: Graduate students Megan Mouser and Nadine Grambling ran a dozen successful high-P-T experiments in a Paris-Edinburgh apparatus at Argonne National Lab, investigating the viscosity and structure of a mercurian magma ocean melt.

1-23-18: Dygert visited the CNRS laboratory in Toulouse, France to serve on Mathieu Rospabé‘s PhD jury and to present a talk on the formation of oceanic lithosphere. Mathieu successfully defended his impressive thesis, congrats Mathieu!

12-15-17: Dygert presented two talks at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans. The talks focused on the petrogenesis of lunar basalts and dynamic history of the Moon, and the formation of mylonitic mantle xenoliths from central Nevada.

11-29-17: Two graduate students are joining the group this spring!
Nadine Grambling is a PhD student interested in tectonics and rock deformation. Nadine is an alumnus of the University of Arizona and the University of New Mexico, where she did an MS with Karl Karlstrom. Welcome Nadine!
Megan Mouser is an MS student interested in planetary geochemistry and petrology. Megan was an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico and more recently a Lunar and Planetary Institute summer intern and experimental petrologist at Johnson Space Center. Welcome Megan!

11-21-17: New research on the viscosity of the lunar magma ocean led by Dygert was published in Geophysical Research Letters, and featured in a press release put together by UT Austin! The study argues that the Moon’s earliest flotation crust would have been relatively impure.

9-19-17: NASA Solar System Workings grant was selected for funding! We will investigate the rheology and convective history of the lunar mantle with rock deformation experiments.

8-14-17: Dygert presented an invited talk at the Goldschmidt Meeting in Paris in the session Lithosphere Evolution during Subduction and Collision.

7-3-17: A study coauthored by Dygert on lunar mantle convection was published in Geophysical Research Letters. Informed by recent experimental results, we found that the lunar mantle would have been stably stratified after cumulate mantle overturn.

5-1-17: New research on cooling of the mantle beneath mid-ocean ridges led by Dygert was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The study was featured in a UT Austin media release! It argues that the mantle is cooled by hydrothermal circulation that extends all the way to the crust-mantle boundary beneath spreading centers.