M. Darby Dyar

Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Astronomy

Minerals; minerals and health; Mössbauer spectroscopy; Mars; Moon; planetary science; optical spectroscopy; synchrotron spectroscopy; FTIR spectroscopy; metamorphic geology; water in minerals

The primary goal of Darby Dyar's research is to understand how hydrogen and oxygen are distributed throughout our solar system, particularly in terrestrial bodies such as the Earth, the Moon, Mars, and the parent bodies of meteorites. Dyar uses several different types of spectroscopy to study rocks that originated from 90- to 0-km depth in the Earth, as well as lunar rocks and Martian meteorite samples collected from Antarctica.

Dyar is a frequent contributor to scientific journals and has been awarded numerous grants from the American Chemical Society, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, among other institutions. She has ongoing funding from NASA's Mars Fundamental Research program to conduct research for the space agency's rovers. To date, five grants totaling $257,000 have supported Dyar's work, which is assisted by students, collecting Mössbauer data at temperatures mimicking those on the cold Martian surface (down to -208 F). Two other NASA grants totaling more than $760,000 are supporting calibration of a new type of laser used for chemical analyses. The ChemCam instrument is part of the Mars Science Laboratory, set to land in 2012; its calibration target was built at the College.

Dyar's other research focuses on the Earth’s Moon. She was appointed to the teams of two of the seven Lunar Science Institutes announced by NASA in 2009. She also receives funding from the National Science Foundation for work at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven, New York, and from NSF’s educational division, which is supporting her development work on effective ways to use animations in teaching.

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