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Department of Geology

Research and Facilities

Research Foci

Kansas State University is on course to become a top 50 public research university by 2025 (read about it here). For its part, the Department of Geology is deepening its research focus in three critical areas:

Energy and Mineral Resources

How will we responsibly acquire and transport oil and natural gas to fuel our nation? How will we evaluate and extract mineral resources? The department is asking questions about the biogeochemistry of unconventional natural gas reservoirs and geological carbon storage.

Earth Surface Processes and the Environment

K-State geologists want to know about the impacts of natural hazards, the quality and quantity of water resources, and how to predict and manage key processes in Earth's Critical Zone. How will environments respond to future stresses? What biological, geochemical, and geomorphic processes impact Earth's Critical Zone?

Evolution and Solid Earth

The Department of Geology is digging deep to better understand the processes that have shaped Earth's crust and mantle. How are magmas generated and how do they evolve? What are the links among tectonism, magmatism, and ore deposits? Research is uncovering processes of mantle evolution and geodynamics.

For more information about specific faculty interests and potential undergraduate and graduate research opportunities, see the individual faculty pages.

Research Highlights

Methane-forming microorganisms in subsurface hydrocarbon reservoirs

Rare-Earth elements of crude oil


Research facilities used by faculty and students in the department include facilities in Thompson Hall as well as several other facilities both on and off campus.

Computer laboratory

The Thompson Hall computer laboratory is available to all geology majors and contains computers, scanners, printers, and plotters. Computers with industry software in the laboratory are used for exercises in geophysics, petrology, petroleum geology, and geochemical modeling courses. A 44" plotter is also available in Thompson Hall and used to print posters for presentation.

Research laboratories

Thompson Hall laboratories contain equipment used for cutting and crushing rock, sectioning and polishing, and other rock sample preparation tasks. Binocular and petrographic microscopes, which include fixed digital cameras, are available for collecting sample images. Fume hoods, analytical balances, drying ovens, centrifuges, an anaerobic chamber, and two ultra-pure water systems are also available. 

Analytical instruments

Analytical instruments available in Thompson Hall currently include:

  • Raman microscope (Renishaw inVia)
  • X-Ray Diffractometer (PANalytical Empyrean) that can analyze both amorphous and crystalline solid-phase samples using numerous techniques
  • Hand-held X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (Bruker Tracer III) used to analyze the chemical composition of rocks and minerals
  • Fully-automated luminescence dating system (model no. Risø TL-DA-20C/D)
  • Gas chromatograph (Gow Mac 580 series) used for gas compositional analysis
  • Ion chromatorgraphy system (Dionex ICS-1100) capable of analyzing a wide range of solutes in water samples
  • UV-Vis spectrophotometers also used for water chemistry analyses
  • Digital inverted fluorescence microscope (EVOS) for capturing multi-channel fluorescence images at high resolution
Field equipment

Field equipment available in the department for undergraduate and graduate research include:

  • Hand-held transits
  • GPS devices
  • Water level meter
  • Water quality monitoring devices
  • Topcon GTS-229 laser total station
  • Proton precession magnetometer
  • Ground-penetrating radar system with antennae for two different depth ranges
  • Worden gravimeter
  • Electromagnetic sensor
  • Seismic reflection/refraction system
Other research facilities available on campus

Numerous other research facilities are also available on campus. An extensive list is found here. On-campus facilities used regularly by Geology students and faculty include:

Student doing lab work