Research conducted by Physics Assistant Professor Eric Toberer is focused on thermoelectric materials, a class of compounds that spontaneously develop a voltage in a temperature gradient. “These materials can be thought of as solid state heat engines where electrons and holes are the working fluid,” he said. “These generators are critical for space missions where solar panels aren’t viable. For example, these generators will power the new Curiosity rover as it travels across the Martian surface.” Toberer’s research aims to transition these devices to terrestrial applications, which could prove to be more economical than solar-thermal generators, as thermoelectric generators have no moving parts. The Mines community’s dedication to understanding and improving materials for energy applications was a large draw for Toberer. He said the school’s focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics also played a role in his decision to come here. “It was clear that I would not be a lone principal investigator, but rather would be joining a community of scientists who are kept up at night by the same difficult questions,” he said.
Yvette Kuiper, assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, is a structural geologist. “My research furthers our understanding of deformation processes of rocks and of plate tectonic movement and processes through time,” she said. As part of her research, she is looking at the distribution of ore deposits in various tectonic settings, which are commonly controlled by faults and folds. She also is a geochronologist and uses radiometric methods to date minerals in rocks to date the deformation with which their growth is associated. Kuiper’s National Science Foundation CAREER award research, “Exhumation of a high-grade metamorphic terrane, and late-stage orogenic collapse in the southeastern New England Appalachians,” focuses on the structural history of that mountain range with an emphasis on the collapse of the mountain belt during or after its formation. Her research is strongly field-based and will incorporate the work of Mines students of all levels.