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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Katherine Dobson

Contact Dr Katherine Dobson (email at

Research Overview

Lava flows in Hawaii

I apply x-ray tomography (more details here) to investigate the textures within geological samples. The method is non destructive, and can be applied to a wide range of samples and sample sizes, and can be used on samples as they are heated, cooled, deformed, or are innundated by fluids.

My own work focusses on the applications of x-ray tomography in volcanology, and uses the latest state-of-the-art real time and 4D imaging techniques. In each data "movie", each frame is a full 3D image collected in a fraction of a second. This allows me to track the location and interactions between crystals, bubbles, fractures and any other feature of interest inside the sample as I heat and cause the magma to flow and deform. 


I am a NERC Independent Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham. Before moving to Durham in 2016, I held a research fellowship at LMU, Munich, and postdoctoral positions at the University of Manchester and University of Glasgow. I obtained my PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2006.

2016 – 2021 NERC Independent Research Fellow. Durham University.

2014 – 2016 Post-Doctoral Researcher in X-ray CT for Volcanology Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat, Munich.

2011 – 2014 Post-Doctoral Research Associate in X-ray CT in Geoscience. Manchester X-ray Imaging Facility

Recent Grant Funding


  • Diamond Light Source (i12): Mobilising magma in the largest eruptions: In situ observation of micro-structural controls on multi-phase fluid rheology (PI)
  • Diamond Light Source (i12): Bubble growth and resorption in magma: a quantitative study (CoI).
  • Diamond Light Source (i12):Real Time Ultra-High-Speed Tomography of a Novel Hydrogen Storage Pellet.(CoI).
  • Diamond Manchester Collaboration (i13): How do you make a Meteorite? Part 2 (CoPI)


  • Swiss Light Source TOMCAT Hysteresis processes in large volcanic eruptions: the evolution from pumice to obsidian (CoI)

  • DGF Proposal award: Understanding conduit intrusion processes at Mt Unzen. (PP)

  • Swiss Light Source TOMCAT Longterm Collaborative Proposal: XRheo – in situ observation of 3-phase flow during rheology experiments.(PI)


  • NERC Independent Research Fellowship: Microstructures in magmas: the role of evolvingrheology onmelt extraction anderuption processes (PI)
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship: Mobilising magmas in the largest eruptions (not taken up) (PI)
  • Diamond Light Source (i12): In situ observation of foaming, coalescence and collapse in magmatic foams using ultrafast x-ray tomography (PI)
  • Diamond Manchester Collaboration (i13): How do you make a Meteorite? (CoPI)
  • Swiss Light Source (TOMCAT):Rheology of two- and three-phase magmas: ultra-fast imaging for near real time quantification (PI)
  • Swiss Light Source(TOMCAT):VolcanicSintering: in situ and real time quantification of aggradation processes (CoPI)


  • NERC Standard Grant: Shedding new light on volcanoes: real time synchrotron x-ray tomography of magmatic phenomena. (RCoI)
  • University of Manchester, Manchester-Diamond Collaboration (i12): In situ investigation of three phase magmas using synchrotron tomography (PI).
  • Diamond Light Source (i12):Sub-second tomography for capturing flow in porous media (PI).
  • Diamond Light Source (i12): Putting magma chambers under the microscope. (PI).


  • Rio Tinto: Understanding leaching efficiency (RCoI)
  • Diamond Light Source (i13): 3D imaging of the oldest animals: tomography of ~635 million year old infaunal cloudinid fossil. (CoI)
  • University of Manchester, Manchester-Diamond Collaboration (i13): The petrophysical structure of deformation bands in high porosity sandstones. (CoI).
  • Diamond Light Source(i12): Time resolved imaging of core formation in the early Earth: tomography at extreme conditions. (CoI)
  • Swiss Light Source (TOMCAT): In-situ rheology of crystal-bearing magmas. (CoPI)
  • Swiss Light Source (TOMCAT): Diving into the magma chamber: understanding melt extraction and magma chamber processes using real time in situ experiments. (PI)


  • PSI SINQ (ICON): In-situ neutron imaging of flow through multi-scale porosity. (PI).

Research Interests

  • Volcanology
  • X-ray Tomography
  • Real time 3D imaging
  • Dynamics of geological processes

Teaching Areas

  • Level 1: Principles of Earth Sciences

    (3 hours/year.)
  • Level 3: Magmatism

    (40 hours/year.)

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Jerram, D.A., Dobson, K.J., Morgan, D.J. & Pankhurst, M.P. (2018). The petrogenesis of magmatic systems: using igneous textures to understand magmatic processes. In Volcanic and Igneous Plumbing Systems: Understanding Magma Transport, Storage, and Evolution in the Earth's Crust. Burchardt, S. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 191-229.

Journal Article

  • Colombier, Mathieu, Scheu, Bettina, Kueppers, Ulrich, Cronin, Shane J., Mueller, Sebastian B., Hess, Kai-Uwe, Wadsworth, Fabian B., Tost, Manuela, Dobson, Katherine J., Ruthensteiner, Bernhard & Dingwell, Donald B. (2019). In situ granulation by thermal stress during subaqueous volcanic eruptions. Geology 47(2): 179-182.
  • Gehne, S., Benson, P. M., Koor, N., Dobson, K. J., Enfield, M. & Barber, A. (2019). Seismo‐Mechanical Response of Anisotropic Rocks Under Hydraulic Fracture Conditions: New Experimental Insights. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
  • Yeo, Isobel A., Dobson, Kate, Josso, Pierre, Pearce, Richard B., Howarth, Sarah A., Lusty, Paul A. J., Bas, Tim P. Le & Murton, Bramley J. (2018). Assessment of the Mineral Resource Potential of Atlantic Ferromanganese Crusts Based on Their Growth History, Microstructure, and Texture. Minerals 8(8): 327.
  • Paredes-Mariño, Joali, Dobson, Katherine J., Ortenzi, Gianluigi, Kueppers, Ulrich, Morgavi, Daniele, Petrelli, Maurizio, Hess, Kai-Uwe, Laeger, Kathrin, Porreca, Massimiliano, Pimentel, Adriano & Perugini, Diego (2018). Enhancement of eruption explosivity by heterogeneous bubble nucleation triggered by magma mingling. Scientific Reports 7: 16897.
  • Colombier, M., Scheu, B., Wadsworth, F. B., Cronin, S., Vasseur, J., Dobson, K. J., Hess, K.-U., Tost, M., Yilmaz, T. I., Cimarelli, C., Brenna, M., Ruthensteiner, B. & Dingwell, D. B. (2018). Vesiculation and Quenching During Surtseyan Eruptions at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Volcano, Tonga. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 123(5): 3762-3779.
  • Hughes, Ery C., Neave, David N., Dobson, Katherine J., Withers, Philip J. & Edmonds, Marie (2017). How to fragment peralkaline rhyolites: Observations on pumice using combined multi-scale 2D and 3D imaging. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 336: 179-191.
  • Dobson, Katherine J., Harrison, Sue T.L., Lin, Qingyang, Ní Bhreasail, Aine, Fagan-Endres, Marijke A., Neethling, Stephen J., Lee, Peter D. & Cilliers, Jan J. (2017). Insights into ferric leaching of low grade metal sulfide-containing ores in an unsaturated ore bed using X-ray computed tomography. Minerals 7(5): 85.
  • Wadsworth, FB Vasseur, J, Llewellin, EW, Dobson, KJ, Colombier, M, von Aulock, FW, Fife, JL, Wiesmaier, S, Hess, K-U, Scheu, B, Lavallée, Y & Dingwell, DB (2017). Topological inversions in coalescing granular media control fluid-flow regimes. Physical Review E 96: 033113.
  • Dobson, K.J., Coban, S.B., McDonald, S.A., Walsh, J., Atwood, R. & Withers, P.J. (2016). 4D imaging of sub-second dynamics in pore-scale processes using real time synchrotron x-ray tomography. Solid Earth Discussions 1-27.
  • Lin, Q., Barker, D., Dobson, K.J., Lee, P. D. & Neethling, S. J. (2016). Modelling particle scale leach kinetics based on X-ray computed micro-tomography images. Hydrometallurgy 162: 25-36.
  • Ma, L., Taylor, K.G., Lee, P.D., Dobson, K.J. , Dowey, P.D. & Courtois, L. (2016). Novel 3D centimetre-to nano-scale quantification of an organic-rich mudstone: The Carboniferous Bowland Shale, Northern England. Marine and Petroleum Geology 72: 193-205.
  • Kaestner, A. P., Trtik, P., Zarebandkouki, M., Kazantsev, D., Snehota, M., Dobson, K. J. & Lehmann, E. H. (2016). Recent developments in neutron imaging with applications for porous media research. Solid Earth 7(5): 1281-1292.
  • Wadsworth, Fabian B., Vasseur, J., Llewellin, E., Schauroth, J., Dobson, K.J., Scheu, B. & Dingwell, D. B (2016). Sintering of viscous droplets under surface tension. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science 472(2188): 20150780.
  • Kazantsev, D., Thompson, W.M., Lionheart, W.R.B., Van Eyndhoven, G., Kaestner, A.P., Dobson, K.J., Withers, P.J. & Lee, P.D. (2015). 4D-CT reconstruction with unified spatial-temporal patch-based regularization. Inverse Problems and Imaging 9(2): 447-467.
  • Van Eyndhoven, G., Batenburg, K. J., Kazantsev, D., Van Nieuwenhove, V., Lee, P. D., Dobson, K. J. & Sijbers, J. (2015). An Iterative CT Reconstruction Algorithm for Fast Fluid Flow Imaging. IEEE Transactions on Image Processing 24(11): 4446-4458.
  • Kazantsev, D., Van Eyndhoven, G., Lionheart, W.R.B., Withers, P.J., Dobson, K.J., McDonald, S.A., Atwood, R. & Lee, P.D. (2015). Employing temporal self-similarity across the entire time domain in computed tomography reconstruction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 373(2043): 20140389.
  • Pistone, M., Arzilli, F., Dobson, K. J., Cordonnier, B., Reusser, E., Ulmer, P., Marone, F., Whittington, A. G., Mancini, L., Fife, J. L. & Blundy, J. D. (2015). Gas-driven filter pressing in magmas: Insights into in-situ melt segregation from crystal mushes. Geology 43(8): 699-702.
  • Lin, Q., Neethling, S.J., Dobson, K.J., Courtois, L. & Lee, P.D. (2015). Quantifying and minimising systematic and random errors in X-ray micro-tomography based volume measurements. Computers & Geosciences 77: 1-7.
  • Tomkinson, T., Lee, M.R., Mark, D.F., Dobson, K.J. & Franchi, I.A. (2015). The Northwest Africa (NWA) 5790 meteorite: A mesostasis-rich nakhlite with little or no Martian aqueous alteration. Meteoritics & Planetary Science 50(2): 287-304.
  • Lindgren, P., Hanna, R.D., Dobson, K.J., Tomkinson, T. & Lee, M.R. (2015). The paradox between low shock-stage and evidence for compaction in CM carbonaceous chondrites explained by multiple low-intensity impacts. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 148: 159-178.
  • Kazantsev, D., Ourselin, S., Hutton, B. F., Dobson, K. J., Kaestner, A. P., Lionheart, W. R. B., Withers, P. J., Lee, P. D. & Arridge, S. R. (2014). A novel technique to incorporate structural prior information into multi-modal tomographic reconstruction. Inverse Problems 30(6): 065004.

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