The University of Chicago has had a strong tradition in geology since its founding in 1892, including the publication of the prestigious Journal of Geology. T.C. Chamberlin, our first department chair, greatly advanced glacial geology and worked on diverse topics including the planetesimal mechanism for planetary formation. Harlen Bretz promoted the hypothesis that scablands of eastern Washington were due to catastrophic flooding, despite opposition to catastrophism. The department has also had many important petrologists and mineralogists, including J.R. Goldsmith and J.V. Smith.
Our current research focuses on identifying the physical and chemical properties of materials at temperatures and pressures relevant for Earth's interior (Campbell and Heinz), reconstructing paleogeography and paleoaltimetry (Rowley), and analyzing the formation of sedimentary records (Kidwell). The main methods we use are diamond-anvil cells to achieve high pressures, synchrotron X-ray sources to probe altered material, traditional geological surveys, and analysis of geological data. We have collaborators at Argonne National Laboratory, including Mike Pellin, and frequently make use of Argonne Laboratory equipment.