Scientist prises open a buried secret

Dr Emma Hart's discovery gives scientists a new tool to to help solve one of Earth science’s biggest mysteries

Dr Emma Hart: Her discovery gives scientists a new tool to to help solve one of Earth science’s biggest mysteries

A PhD graduate at the University of Portsmouth has won a prestigious academic prize for identifying tiny minerals hidden inside another mineral called rutile, in rocks once buried deep below the Earth’s surface which resurfaced due to plate tectonics.

The minerals that Dr Emma Hart has discovered are about 0.05mm across — the width of a human hair.

The finding gives scientists a new way to identify other rocks that were once buried deep inside the Earth which could help solve one of Earth science’s biggest mysteries – when and how did plate tectonics begin on Earth?

Dr Hart was awarded the Mineralogical Society R.A. Howie Best Paper Award for her paper published in the journal, Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The award is made each year to the lead author of the best paper published in English in a mineralogical journal within three years of the author being awarded their PhD.

Emma wins a £1,000 bursary to attend an international conference to present her research to leading international colleagues in her field.

She said: “I am tremendously honoured to have won such a prestigious award for my first research paper. It would not have been possible without the help and support of my supervisory team here at Portsmouth, including Professor Craig Storey, Dr Mike Fowler and Dr Emilie Bruand, and my co-authors on the paper. Now that I have completed my studies here at the University of Portsmouth, I am hoping to carve out a successful research career and I am very excited to present this work at an international conference next year.”

Professor Craig Storey, Associate Head of Research for the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: “Emma was an excellent PhD student. What she has found helps us to look at preserved minerals that are only seen within a robust mineral, rutile, which has never before been looked at.

“Her careful and patient work allowed this discovery and her ability to turn this into such a well-written and well-read scientific paper is outstanding for her first paper out of her PhD thesis.

“Winning this is also a great honour for one of our recent graduates.”

The R.A. Howie Memorial Lecture Award is named in honour of Professor. R.A. Howie (1923–2012) who was a distinguished professor of mineralogy at Kings College London and Royal Holloway University, London.

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