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Durham University

Durham Geochemistry Centre


Academic Staff

Prof. Kevin Burton

Professor and Director of the Durham Geochemistry Centre

Kevin’s research interests bring together a number of interrelated disciplines within the earth and environmental sciences - all linked by the use of isotopes and trace elements, measured using mass spectrometric techniques, to determine absolute timescales and to trace chemical sources through processes that range from planetary differentiation and mantle melting to continental weathering and erosion.

Dr. Pablo Cubillas

Lecturer in Geochemistry

My research career can be framed in the broad field of mineral-solution interface chemistry and the application of advanced scanning probe microscopy. Within this subject I am particularly interested in the study of:

  • Understanding the fundamental aspects that control the interactions between ions or molecules and crystal surfaces.
  • Nucleation and growth mechanisms of minerals and nanoporous materials.
  • Dissolution rates of minerals and how they are influenced by the presence of different ions and organic species.
  • Precipitation of secondary minerals in coupled dissolution/precipitation systems.
  • Role of surface covering on dissolution rates.
  • Application of minerals for environmental remediation.
  • Scanning probe microscopy development.

Prof. Chris Greenwell


Chris' research bridges across the computer simulation and experimental study of layered mineral systems. Areas where significant advances have been made include understanding the reatcivity and folding dynamics of biomarcomolecules at mineral surfaces, fossil and bio-fuel forming reactions at mineral catalysts, the material properties of nano-composites and the crystal growth and modification of layered double hydroxide minerals.

Dr Darren Gröcke


Darren Gröcke has diverse research interests ranging from palaeoceanography, palaeoclimatology to biogeochemistry. His research is not only on palaeo-records, but recently has focused on modern environmental and ecological systems in order to better understand and refine our knowledge of ancient climates

Prof. Colin Macpherson


Colin has applied new and established geochemical techniques in innovative ways to understand the origins of magmatism and its relationship to tectonics and set up the original stable isotope laboratory in Durham. He has developed particular expertise in SE Asia and the western Pacific where he has studied subduction initiation, lithosphere erosion, mantle melting, crustal growth and recycling of subducted crust and sediment.

Prof. Yaoling Niu


Igneous, metamorphic, and ore-forming processes; igneous phase equilibria during mantle melting and magma evolution; major element, trace element and isotope geochemistry; quantitative petrology and geochemistry of mantle and mantle-derived rocks; mantle melting dynamics and ocean crust formation; crust-mantle recycling; structure, composition and origin of lithospheric mantle (continental and oceanic); processes associated with mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones; seamount genesis; intra-plate volcanisms; and ophiolites. Petrology and geochemistry of ultra-high pressure metamorphic rocks in zones of continental collision and oceanic lithosphere subduction. Initiation of subduction zones and global tectonics.

Dr. Geoff Nowell

Senior Research Officer

Geoff specialises in multi-collector plasma ionisation and thermal ionisation mass spectrometry. Much of his career has specialised in Lu-Hf isotope measurements applied to mantle samples, combining this approach with Re-Os geochemistry to provide powerful constraints on the origins of potassic magmas and pyroxenite lithologies in the mantle.

Dr. Chris Ottley

Senior Research Officer

Chris has a wide ranging background in environmental analytical chemistry . In the last 15 years this has concentrated on the application of ICP-MS technologies supporting the research objectives of the Department of Earth Sciences. He has continually been developing methodologies for the low level determination of REE and other trace elements at low concentrations in geological materials.

Dr Julie Prytulak

Assistant Professor

Prof. Dave Selby

Chair and manager of the Source Rock and Sulfide Geochronology and Geochemistry Laboratory

Current interests include further development of the Re-Os chronometer to sedimentary and petroleum systems, time scale calibration and resolving controversy of the causes of mass extinctions. Additional interests surround Re-Os systematics of sulphide minerals, and the development and application of Ni stable isotopes to petroleum and sedimentary systems. His research is conducted in the Source Rock Geochronology and Geochemistry Laboratory

Prof. Fred Worrall

Professor of Environmental Chemistry

Fred is the leader of the Carbon, Waste and Water research group at Durham University. Fred works with many researchers, both at Durham and at a wide variety of external organisations in order to facilitiate the continued growth of the Environmental Research undertaken in the Earth Sciences Department.

Jo Peterkin

Research Lab Technician

Jo provides technical support for the Arthur Holmes Laboratories and the carbonate side of the Stable Isotope Lab. Responsibilities’ include overseeing the day-to-day running of the associated mass spectrometers (Thermo-Finnigan Neptune, Triton, MAT 253), offers on-site training in the operation of instruments (and associated sample preparation chemistry work) to new users both within and outside Durham University. Jo also monitors and advises lab managers on levels of detection, analysis reproducibility and conducts diagnostic tests and investigations where appropriate.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr. Lisa Baldini

Research Fellow

Lisa’s research interests include palaeoclimate reconstruction using stalagmites, cave monitoring, atmospheric dynamics, and stable isotope systematics. She researches cave sites in Ireland, Spain, Poland, and Central America, and has helped to develop climate records for all these areas. Lisa was a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Durham reconstructing the North Atlantic Oscillation using stalagmites from southern Poland, and is currently a senior postdoctoral researcher working on the HURRICANE project.

Dr. Ian Boothroyd

Postdoctoral Researcher

I am currently working for ReFINE, investigating the environmental impacts that oil and gas exploitation have and the potential impact of fracking. My research is focused upon determination of greenhouse gas emissions, investigating long-term well integrity and fugitive emissions of methane.

Dr. George Cooper

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Valentina Erastova

Postdoctoral Researcher

My research aims to understand how amino acids organise and react to form peptides within the structure of layered minerals. To do this I use computer simulations to add insight and fundamental knowledge into how simple biomolecules react with layered mineral surfaces.

Dr. Madeleine Humphreys

Royal Society Research Fellow

Research interests include the importance of volatiles in the generation and eruption of subduction zone magmas, through use of melt inclusions and hydrous minerals; crystal-scale disequilibrium as a tool to understand magmatic processes; and the textural, chemical and physical evolution of crystal mushes during solidification of mafic rocks.

Dr Alexander Iveson

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Alex's research focuses on improving our understanding of volatile recycling at subduction zones through analysis of primitive rocks from Kamchatka.

Current project involves the in-situ analysis (EPMA, LA-ICP-MS, SIMS) of minerals, glasses, and melt inclusions to reveal systematic variations in the concentrations of H2O, C, F, Cl, S, B, and other volatile trace elements cycled through subduction zones.

My PhD research assimilated complimentary information derived from experimental petrology (IHPV) and natural volcanic samples (Augustine volcano, AK) to better constrain the fluid-crystal-melt partitioning behaviour and fluid transport of trace and ore elements in intermediate-evolved magmatic systems, and their associated hydrothermal ore deposits (Spirit Lake Pluton/Margaret Cu-Mo porphyry deposit, Mt. St. Helens, WA).

Postgraduate Students

Nikolaos A. Apeiranthitis

Supervisors: Prof. Chris Greenwell, Dr Katherine Dobson

Araceli Enriquez-Ramirez


Catherine Gallagher

Supervisors: Dr. Richie Brown and Prof. Kevin Burton

(PhD) Isotope tracing of carbon sequestration in basalt

Josh Hughes

Supervisors: Dr. Madeleine Humphreys & Prof. Colin Macpherson

(Ph.D) Crystallisation, Melt Infiltration and Trace Element Enrichment at the Klokken Intrusion, South Greenland

Josh’s Ph.D focusses upon the formation of igneous layering, the migration and infiltration of evolved magmatic liquids, the rheology of crystal mushes, and volatile and trace element variations within the Klokken syenite intrusion.

Junjie Liu

Supervisor: Dr. David Selby

(PhD) Petroleum genesis, expulsion, migration or trapping: understanding Re-Os dating using well-constrained case studies

My projects aim to identify process(es) responsible for Re-Os geochronometer resetting and Re-Os chemical fractionation during petroleum genesis, expulsion, migration and trapping. By comparing Re-Os data of an in-situ and a migrated oil of a similar maturity from the same source, critical insights concerning the transfer of Re and Os from the source phase to oil, Re-Os fractionation and secondary processes possibly affecting the Re-Os systematics will be provided. The effect of contacting with water on Re-Os system will also be explored by comparing two oils from the same kitchen but with different distances from the oil-water contact.

Zeyang Liu

Supervisors: Dr. David Selby, Prof. Chris Greenwell

(PhD) Controls of Re and Os abundance and fractionation in petroleum source rocks and Re-Os geochronology on Devonian Strata of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin

Emma Ownsworth

Supervisor: Dr. David Selby

(PhD)Tracking the millennial-scale glacial palaeoceanography of the Baltic Sea Basin and Western Greenland: Insight from osmium isotopes.

Diego D.J. Perera-Solis


Optimising ketonic decarboxylaton for bio-oil utilisation

Nipada Santha

Supervisors: Dr Pablo Cubillas, Prof. Chris Greenwell

Katharina Schweitzer

Supervisors: Prof. Kevin Burton, Dr. Geoff Nowell

(PhD) Siderophile element systematics and Hf-Os isotope signatures of carbonatites: insights into the oigin of Earth's most unusual lavas

Catriona H. Sellick

Supervisors: Prof. Chris Greenwell, Dr Nicola De Paola, Dr Pablo Cubillas

Seth Tian

Visiting Student: