Introductions from our 1st Year PhD students

Over the past few months, 3 PhD students have joined our research group. Read on to see what projects they’ll be working on during the next 3 years and to find out about upcoming PhD projects starting in 2019.


Hello, my name is Marissa and I’m working on a project titled ‘The Volatile History of the Moon’. For this project, I’m working with both the Volcanology and Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry research groups. My project will involve processing and analysing images of different volcanic features on the surface of the Moon, and modelling the ascent and eruption of lunar magma. The volatile content of the lunar mantle has been measured using various geochemical and experimental techniques, so the volcanological approach I’ll be using is something different.

Prior to starting my PhD, I completed my Masters in Volcanology and Geological Hazards, at Lancaster University. For my Masters dissertation, I completed a project on Martian lava flows, looking at what the morphology of the flows can tell us about the properties of the lava. This project was an excellent introduction into the world of planetary science! I’m very excited to now be working on lunar lava flows, and I’m hoping to develop my skills in numerical modelling, coding, and image processing during my PhD.

mare flows

Photo: Apollo 15 photograph of the Sea of Rains, which lies in Mare Imbrium. The orange arrows mark the edges of basaltic mare flows, the dominant volcanic feature on the Moon. (Image credit: NASA/JSC/ASU)


Hi everyone, I’m Tom and my project is about Antarctic Meteorites. In addition to curation and characterisation of mission-returned samples I will be investigating impact metals and the processes that form them in various conditions, with the hope of being able to track back to parent impactor compositions. It’s unclear what exactly will be returned from Antarctica, so the prospect of working on the materials is very exciting!

You can learn more about the research group’s involvement with UK Polar Meteorite Exploration and Research on their blog.

I did my geology undergraduate at Royal Holloway and completed my geoscience masters at UCL last year. As a part of my masters, I researched the origin of a terrestrial native metal called Josephinite, using SEM analysis to try and understand how such an odd mineral assemblage might form on Earth. In a not-too-unsurprising twist, it’s not entirely clear! During my PhD I’m hoping to carry on working with geochemical data and advance my analytical skillset with a view to better understanding the impact history of bodies in the solar system like the Moon.


Photo: a conductivity field probe being tested out on some meteorite samples, before it is used by the team in Antarctica. More information on the probe here. (Image credit: Tom Harvey.)


Hello, I started my PhD earlier this year and I’m working on a project titled “Exploring the Lunar Regolith at the Microscale”. To break that down, the Moon is covered with a soil-like layer which is known as the regolith. Within the regolith you can find small grains called ‘agglutinates’, which are created when micrometeorites impact the lunar surface; this causes some of the soil to melt, which traps mineral fragments and air bubbles inside as it quickly cools.

During my PhD I’ll be analysing agglutinates from lunar regolith samples which were returned to Earth by the USA Apollo and Soviet Union Luna missions in the 1960’s and 1970’s. To do this I’ll be using a variety of non-destructive techniques to determine their mineralogy, chemistry, and physical properties.

Before starting my PhD I completed my BSc Geology and Planetary Science here at the University of Manchester. I found that I really enjoyed learning about the different bodies in our Solar System and decided that I would like to pursue a career in research so that I could learn more and contribute to the field. I’m now six months into my PhD and am excited about where the next three and a half years will take me! 


Photo: back-scattered electron image of an agglutinate from the Luna 20 mission, sample 22023_15. (Image credit: Katie McCanaan.)

If you’d like to join our research group, information about funded PhD projects starting in 2019 can be found here.

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