Deep Earth We study the behavior of minerals and other materials at high pressure and temperature to better understand the structure, dynamics, and evolution of the Earth’s interior. This map of predicted heat flow at the core mantle boundary is from Stackhouse et al., EPSL, 2015.

Early Earth We study the properties of a molten early Earth, try to understand how it crystallized, and what fossil signatures this initially molten state may have left behind. This cartoon summarizes many of the processes that may occur in the earliest Earth.

High Pressure Physics and Planetary Physics The discovery that the majority of planets are much larger than Earth challenges our understanding of the fundamental physics of materials at very high pressure and temperature, and how material properties control planetary evolution in our solar system and beyond. The figure shows how the electronic structure of iron changes up to 1 Gbar pressure (one billion atmospheres), the limit of normal (non-fusing) matter in the universe.


We use first principles quantum mechanical simulations like the one illustrated in the video to understand many processes including vaporization of the earliest Earth. The video shows silica liquid vaporizing into a vacuum. Yellow spheres are silicon atoms and red spheres are oxygen atoms. You can see oxygen molecules and SiO molecules in the vapor. Based on Xiao and Stixrude, PNAS, 2018.

We use advanced thermodynamic modeling to study the behavior of Earth’s mantle throughout its history. The figure shows the heat capacity of Earth’s mantle over a wide range of pressure and temperature. The heat capacity, which relates the heat lost by the Earth over time to it’s interior temperature, changes rapidly where one phase transforms into another, such as wadsleyite (wa) to an assemblages of garnet (gt) and ferropericlase (fp). From Stixrude end Lithgow-Bertelloni, GJI, 2022.

Research Group

Leslie Insixiengmay, Ph.D. student
Travis Gilmore, Ph.D. student
David James, Ph.D. student
Francis Dragulet, Ph.D. student
Jie Deng, Postdoctoral scholar

Former Group Members

Bijaya Karki, Former co-advised Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 1997) and Post-Doctoral Scholar, now Full Professor and Chair of Computer Science at LSU. Homepage
Gerd Steinle Neumann, Former Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2001), now Akademischer Rat, University of Bayreuth. Homepage
Boris Kiefer, Former Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2002), now Full Professor at New Mexico State University (Physics). Homepage
M. Kathleen Davis, Former Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2005) now at Shell Exploration and Production
Sun Ni, Former Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2008) now at HSBC Operations Analysis
Nico de Koker, Former Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2008), now Full Professor at Stellenbosch University (South Africa, Civil Engineering). Department HomePage
Adam Martins, Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2015) now Programmer at the UK Met Office
James Braithwaite, Former Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2018), now Data Analyst, Montreal, Canada
Lee Bardon, Former Doctoral Student (Master of Philosophy, 2018), now Ph.D. Student, University of Southern California. USC Group Webpage
Alfred Wilson, Former Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. 2018), now Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Leeds. Homepage
Evgeny Wassermann, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Sr. Technical Lead, Apache Design Solutions. Linkedin
Donald Snyder, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation. Homepage
Patrizia Fumagalli, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Associate Professor, University of Milan. Homepage
Wendy Panero, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Associate Professor at Ohio State University. Homepage
Mainak Mookherjee, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Associate Professor at Florida State University. Homepage
Stephen Stackhouse, Former Postdoctoral Scholar now Associate Professor at University of Leeds. Homepage
David Muñoz Ramo, Former Postdoctoral Scholar now Head of Quantum chemistry at Cambridge Quantum. Homepage
Roberto Scipioni, Former Postdoctoral Scholar now in Research Computing at University of Sussex. Homepage
Eero Holmström, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Institute Finland. Linkedin
Carlos Pinilla, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Associate Professor, Universidad del Norte, Colombia. Homepage
Bing Xiao, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Full Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. Google Scholar
Hang Cui, Former Postdoctoral Scholar.
Gabriella Graziano, Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Senior Editor at Nature Reviews Chemistry. Journal Homepage
Former Postdoctoral Scholar, now Lecturer at Queen Mary University (Fluid Mechanics). Homepage