M. Darby Dyar

Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Astronomy; Chair of Astronomy; on leave 2020-2021
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 Mössbauer, reflectance, Raman, synchrotron, and LIBS spectroscopies. She studies rocks from diverse localities on Earth from the deep oceans to Antarctica, as well as lunar rocks and meteorite samples.

Dyar has written more than 260 papers in scientific journals and has been awarded more than $10 million in diverse grants from NASA and NSF. These include support for her participation on the Mars Science Laboratory science team; its calibration target was built at the College. She also serves on three of the eight NASA Solar System Exploration Virtual Institutes. She is pioneering development of novel machine learning techniques for interpretation of spectroscopic data. In 2016, Dyar received the G.K. Gilbert Award from the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America for outstanding contributions to the solution of fundamental problems in planetary geology. In 2017, she was honored with the Hawley Medal from the Mineralogical Society of Canada. In 2018, she received the Eugene Shoemaker Distinguished Scientist Medal from NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute for significant contributions to the field of lunar science. She is a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, the Geological Society of American, and the Geochemical Society.

Dyar’s research program supports 6-8 Mount Holyoke undergraduate researchers in her Mineral Spectroscopy Laboratory each year, as well as other students from the Five College Astronomy Department. Those students work closely with research staff and post-docs at the College as well as several graduate students at the University of Massachusetts. Dyar and her students represent the College at various national and international conferences each year as well as various alumnae groups.

Selected Publications

Dyar, M.D., Fassett, C.I., Giguere, S., Lepore, K., Byrne, S., Boucher, T., Carey, CJ, and Mahadevan, S. (2016) Comparison of univariate and multivariate models for prediction of major and minor elements from laser-induced breakdown spectra with and without maskingSpectrochimica Acta Part B, 123, 93-104.

Dyar, M.D., Giguere, S., Carey, CJ, and Boucher, T. (2016) Comparison of baseline removal methods for laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy of geological samples. Spectrochimica Acta Part B, 126, 53-64.

Dyar, M.D., Speicher, E.A., Gunter, M.E., Lanzirotti, A., Tucker, J.M., Carey, CJ, Peel, S.A., Brown, E.B., Oberti, R., and Delaney, J.S. (2016) Use of multivariate analysis for synchrotron micro-XANES analysis of iron valence state in amphibolesAmerican Mineralogist, 101, 1171-1189.

News Links

"Delving into data from Mars," Office of Communications and Marketing, June 23, 2016

"Video: Professor Darby Dyar discusses Mars Research," Office of Communications and Marketing, October 14, 2015

"MHC Professor Darby Dyar discusses her research at TEDxSpringfield," Office of Communications and Marketing, October 13, 2015

"Dyar Talks to Republican about Life on Moon," Springfield Republican, January 21, 2014

"MHC's Dyar Talks to ABC 40 about NASA Work," Office of Communications, January 10, 2014

"Darby Dyar Heads for Outer Space—Virtually," Office of Communications, December 30, 2013 

"Dyar Talks to Globe About Life on Mars," Boston Globe, December 9, 2013

"Darby Dyar," People Profile, Solar System Exploration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, February 13, 2013

"Curious About Life: Interview with Darby Dyar," Astrobiology Magazine, December 13, 2012

"Dyar on Academic Minute and NEPR," WAMC The Academic Minute, August 20, 2012

"MHC's Darby Dyar Plays Key Role in Mars Curiosity Mission," Office of Communications, August 6, 2012

Recent Campus News


February at Mount Holyoke

February at Mount Holyoke featured Black History Month events, Princeton Review rankings, outstanding student-athletes and of course valentines.

This is photo of astronomy professor Darby Dyar in her lab. She is smiling, holds a tray of samples, standing in front of shelves with numbered trays stacked on them.

She boldly goes

Astronomy professor Darby Dyar uses real-world tricorders and a growing database of spectroscopic minerals signatures to identify minerals found in space.

Darby Dyar, blond white woman in blue sweater seated at desk with three computer monitors and charts on the wall.

Fresh batch of Apollo 11 moon rocks for Dyar

Mount Holyoke professor Darby Dyar discusses her work with moon rocks on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s launch. 

Darby Dyer

Is Venus the new Mars?

Exploration of Venus could cast light on why planets become habitable, says Mount Holyoke’s Darby Dyar.

Recent Publications

Ytsma, C.R., and Dyar, M.D. (2019) Accuracies of lithium, boron, carbon, and sulfur quantification in geological samples with LIBS in Mars, Earth, and vacuum conditions.Spectrochim. Acta B, 162, 105715.

Di Guiseppe, D., Harper, M., Bailey, M., Erskine, B., Della Ventura, G., Ardit, M., Pasquali, L., Tomaino, G., Ray, R., Mason, H., Dyar, M.D., Hanuskove, M., Giacobbe, C., Zoboli, A., and Gualitieri, A.F. (2019) Characterization and assessment of the potential toxicity/pathogenicity potential of fibrous glaucophane. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 178, 108723.

Roberts, S., Sheffer, A., Dyar, M.D., McCanta, M., and Sklute, E.C. (2019) Oxidation state of iron in fulgurites and trinitite: Implications for redox changes during abrupt high-temperature and pressure events. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta., 266, 332-350.

Recent Awards

Named as a recipient of Wellesley College’s 2020 Alumnae Achievement Award.