Department News

Verhagen receives AGU's Outstanding Student Presentation Award (OSPA)

VerhagenChristina Verhagen has received an OPSA for her poster at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting. Her presentation, entitled "Linking paleomagnetism and petrographic observations to long-lived hydrothermal activity at the Chicxulub crater" was rated among the top ~5% of student presentations in the Geomagnetism, Paleomagnetism, and Electromagnetism Section. Paleomagnetic analysis of impact breccia from the Chicxulub impact crater showed evidence of long-lived hydrothermalism within the crater. Using electron microprobe analysis, Christina and colleagues were able to identify the main magnetic remanence carriers as hydrothermal Fe-sulfides and Ti-magnetites. These secondary minerals reveal changing temperatures and chemical conditions within hydrothermal fluids through time.

Distinguished Professor Yair Rosenthal announced as AGU Fellow

IMG 0987 1200x400V2We are proud to share the news that Dr. Yair Rosenthal has been announced as a 2019 fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), an honor given to individual AGU members who have made exceptional scientific contributions and gained prominence in their respective fields of Earth and space sciences. With over two decades at Rutgers, Dr. Rosenthal has been a leader in the fields of Paleoceanography, Paleoclimatology and Biogeochemistry, and has enjoyed joint faculty membership in the departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Marine and Coastal Sciences. Founded in 1919, AGU is a not-for-profit scientific society dedicated to advancing Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. Since the Fellows program was established in 1962, and according to the organization’s bylaws, no more than 0.1 percent of the total membership of AGU is recognized annually. AGU has 60,000 members in 137 countries, which places Yair in very distinguished company. Congratulations! He, along with the entire 2019 class of Fellows, will be recognized during 2019 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, USA. More information at

EPS Welcomes Our New Faculty Member Lujendra Ojha

Central peak of Hale crater on Mars (Inset: New Faculty Member Lujendra Ojha)Welcome Lujendra (Luju)! Luju holds a B.S. in Geophysics from University of Arizona (2012) and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science from Georgia Institute of Technology (2016). He spent the following 3 years as a prestigious Balustein Postdoctoral Fellow and a Research Scientist, in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, before he joined us as an EPS faculty this month. An overarching focus of Luju’s research is the evolution of terrestrial planets and its effect on geological processes and habitability. Luju uses a diverse set of tools to understand these processes, including remote sensing, laboratory simulations, numerical modeling, and terrestrial field work. He is a Co-Investigator in the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) mission to Mars which is the most powerful camera that humanity has ever sent to another planet (see 3D rendering that Luju made below). Luju is always looking for talented students to work on planetary science projects. Visit him at

Rutgers geologists return from successful expedition to the southern Argentine margin

crew ThomasThompsonProfessor Jim Wright and four graduate students sailed on a research cruise aboard the RV Thomas Thompson, leaving from Montevideo, Uruguay on September 11th and returning on October 31st. Aaron Watters (Ph.D.), Mark Yu (Ph.D.), Tim Shamus (M.S.), and alumnus Alex Adams (MS, 2019) joined researchers and students from Texas A&M and the College of Charleston to explore the southern Argentine margin. On this 51-day cruise, the research team collected high-resolution seismic lines, multibeam bathymetry data, and a suite of cores from the southern Argentine margin. Over 4000 km (2135 nM) of high-resolution seismic data allowed the team to see the margin’s geologic architecture. One of the aims of the investigation was to image locations where sediments and deep ocean currents interact, forming large sediment drifts. Sediments are swept to the deepest parts of the continental margin (>4000 m) through a series of canyons where strong bottom water currents have sculpted the sediments producing sedimentary deposits over 2 km thick over the past 14 million years. A second sediment drift is developing in water depths between 2200 and 2800 m and appears to be a younger drift deposit. The research team also collected sixty-two cores from water depths spanning 750 to 4500 m, recovering >380 m of sediments. Eighteen jumbo piston cores (up to 14 m) recovered sediments that encompass the most recent glacial to interglacial cycles. Older sediments exposed on the margin were also recovered using a gravity core within a 20 ft steel core barrel known as Big Bertha. Shore-based biostratigraphic analysis will be conducted on these sediments. The research team will work on the data and cores collected over the next 4 to 5 years and will support a variety of graduate and undergraduate research projects.

Students study Rodinia

Professor Jill VanTongeren led her field methods course to the Adirondacks to look at the formation of  the ancient supercontinent Rodinia. Pictured is the group sitting on top of 1.1 Ga Massif Anorthosites in the High Peaks region and enjoying the view towards Mount Marcy (NY State’s tallest peak) after a nice climb. (photo by Silke Severmann)

EPS undergraduate studies Martian soil at NASA

Sophie Benaroya is an undergraduate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and a Rutgers Honors College senior at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.  Her recent work at the Lunar and Planetary Institute of NASA can be found here

EPS at the forefront of astrobiology with ~$6M NASA grant

rutgers nanomachines sqHow did life commence on the early Earth, and where else might it have developed in our universe? These are the fundamental questions being addressed by a team of researchers spanning the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and others here at Rutgers University. The science team, entitled "ENIGMA" for Evolution of Nanomachines in Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors is exploring these questions with support from a highly competitive ~$6M grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

ENIGMA is led by Principal Investigator Professor Paul Falkowski, and EPS Professors Nathan Yee and Juliane Gross are Co-Investigators.

This NAI team will explore catalysis of electron transfer reactions by prebiotic peptides to microbial ancestral enzymes to modern nanomachines, integrated over four and a half billion years of Earth’s changing geosphere. Theme 1 focuses on the synthesis and function of the earliest peptides capable of moving electrons on Earth and other planetary bodies. Theme 2 focuses on the evolutionary history of “motifs” in extant protein structures. Theme 3 focuses on how proteins and the geosphere co-evolved through geologic time.

For more information and to learn about opportunities to get involved, check out the ENIGMA webpage at

Professor Nathan Yee explores the possibility of life on Mars and beyond

Nathan Yee, a Rutgers University–New Brunswick professor of geomicrobiology and geochemistry and a co-investigator at Rutgers ENIGMA, a NASA-funded research team focused on discovering how proteins evolved to become the catalysts of life on Earth. Yee co-created and teaches Rutgers’ first course on astrobiology, an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand whether life arose elsewhere and whether we can detect it. read more here

new in PNAS: The first day of the Cenozoic

firstdayA new study published in PNAS on the K-Pg boundary event was contributed to by Rutgers graduate student Christina Verhagen and former EPS faculty Sonia Tikoo.  Christina's research includes identifying magnetic signatures recorded in magnetic minerals within rocks from the Chicxulub impact crater, formed 66 million years ago during the K/Pg mass extinction. She is studying how rocks are remagnetized by high velocity impacts and how impact-induced, long-lived hydrothermal systems alter crater rocks through time supplying nutrients for the recovery of life within the crater.  Very interesting work!