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Dear prospective students,

Tiziana in the lab

Thank you for visiting our Rocks and Geomaterials Lab site and taking an interest in the properties of rocks and geomaterials. This is an exciting time for geophysics, and the geosciences at large, because of the fundamental knowledge, interdisciplinary studies, and innovation that these disciplines can bring to create a more sustainable society.

The contribution of Geophysics to sustainable Earth resources

We are living in a unique time on planet Earth — a time when humans are consuming the 150% of Earth’s available resources. This has caused unprecedented and unsustainable changes to our environment.  It is as if we have been continuously and heedlessly borrowing resources from the Bank of Earth without thinking judiciously about when and how we will deal with our debt. So, how can geophysics contribute to controlling that debt?  

Understanding Earth processes and innovating geomaterials

Technical innovation from science and engineering will lead the way in the challenge of decarbonizing our future and using natural resources more responsibly. Studying the properties of rocks and geomaterials is foundational to any technological innovation. Why? Any proposed solution that involves Earth, and the resources it provides us, requires laboratory testing. We neither want to be hasty nor act without thinking through the consequences of proposed solutions.

This calls for deep knowledge of processes in the subsurface, whether it is for extracting fluids, injecting, or storing them underground, as well as of the raw materials from the Earth (rocks and sediments) to use in the making of more sustainable forms of concrete or even plastic. In our quest, we cross-fertilize knowledge across disciplines including Geological Sciences Civil and Environmental Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Chemical Engineering.

Solutions for sustainable development require implementing outside-the-box ideas. But the only way to learn about the success (or failure) of any new idea is to experimentally perturb the system to which these ideas may be applied, make observations, and draw inferences. Asking questions starts with observation and experimentation. This is what my students and I do, and I welcome curious, imaginative, diverse students who are determined to contribute to science!

Tiziana Vanorio
Director, Rocks and Geomaterials Lab
Associate Professor of Geophysics
Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences