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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

$3.9 Million NASA Lava Caves Study


Research facilities used by faculty and students in the department include facilities in Thompson Hall and Nichols Hall.

Computer laboratory

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

Teaching facilities

Research and teaching go hand-in-hand in our department. As such, laboratory facilities and equipment in the department are used for both research and teaching. We also have some equipment used primarily to enhance our courses including the Augmented Reality Sandbox, shown in the picture above. The AR Sandbox uses 3D visualization applications to enable users to create topographic models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map projected onto the sand; the projection includes topographic contour lines and simulated surface water and precipitation. Students are able to interact with the sandbox and see immediately how different topographies would appear on a map as well as how those differences would affect the movement of water through a landscape or how differences in precipitation might affect that landscape. 

Research laboratories

Thompson Hall laboratories contain equipment used for clay mineral separation, cutting and crushing rock, sectioning and polishing, and other rock and sediment 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)
  • Fluid inclusion stage (Linkam THMSG600 stage on a Nikon Eclipse microscope)
  • 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
  • Groundwater pump (Geotech SS Geosub)
  • 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
  • Portable Probe Permeameter (For inquiries, please contact afarough@ksu.edu)
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
Dr. Farough using the Augmented Reality Sandbox