I am primarily interested in constraining the processes that govern the evolution, differentiation and stratification of continental crust through petrographic (studying minerals and whole-rock compositions) and experimental studies of volcanics related to subduction and extension.


As an outdoor enthusiast and geologist, I enjoy discovering how the combined effects of tectonics and magmatism lead to the production of continents and fabulous landscapes in the US. My research on the origin and evolution of continental crust (silica-rich, buoyant sections of Earth’s crust) incorporates both field and experimental work, with several field sites in the western US, Caribbean and the Aleutians. I currently have an active undergraduate research group examining compositions, the mineral phases, and pre-eruptive conditions (i.e., temperature, pressure, and dissolved volatile contents) of volcanics that erupted from South Sister Volcano, OR. I currently have NSF funding for a suite of experiments on alkaline magmas to develop a calibration for a new hygrometer model based on the sanidine liquid exchange reaction. Please email me if you are interested in joining my research program.


NEW! Quantifying the effects of glaciation on crustal stress and eruptive patterns at Mt. Waesche, Executive Committee Range, Antarctica (NSF Polar Programs Funded Project)

The PhD student will collect whole rock and mineral compositions to determine how the magmatic system beneath Mt. Waesche, a volcano in the Executive Committee Range in Antarctica, responds to changing ice-overburden. The PhD student will gain expertise in sample processing, preparation of materials for electron microbeam analysis (microprobe and scanning electron microscope). The PhD student will also gain expertise in applying models to mineral compositions and interpreting the resultant intensive variables in the context of volcanic systems. Results will be incorporated into a geodynamic model of the lithospheric stress field surrounding Mt. Waesche. Opportunities exist for experimental approaches to this project. Prospective candidates must have a BS/BA degree or MS in Geology, Earth Science or related field and abundant scientific curiosity. Please email ( if you are interested.

Waesche Image


NEW! Molecular complexation of rare earth elements (REE) in high temperature and pressure supercritical geologic fluids (DOE Funded Project)

This project aims to generate a comprehensive set of solubility measurements of Rare Earth Element (REE)-bearing phosphates using synthetic REE end-member crystals, which will be equilibrated with a variety of neutral and acidic solutions between 500 – 700°C and pressures of 0.5 to 2 kb, in cold seal pressure vessels. This PhD position is one of three and part of a collaborative effort to understand REE solubility in hydrothermal fluids lead by Dr. Alex Gysi and in conjunction with Dr. Nicole Hurtig at NMT. Project work will be collaborative between NMT, Los Alamos and University of Indiana. The work conducted by the PhD student under the mentorship of Dr. Waters will be used to calibrate a solubility model for REE phosphates in high temperature (>600°C) fluids. The PhD will gain expertise in creating precious metal capsules for housing experimental run products, expanding a cold-seal pressure line, improving a methodology for solution capture, designing kinetic tests for solubility experiments and analyzing run products using ICP-MS and ICP-OES, electron microprobe analyzer and scanning electron microscope. Prospective candidates must have a BS/BA degree or MS in Geology, Earth Science or related field and abundant scientific curiosity. Please email ( if you are interested.


If you are interested in other opportunities related to experimental petrology, geo-thermometry and barometry and petrogenesis in the context of origin of the continents and understanding magmatic transport in storage in Earth’s crust, also send me an email!


2020- present             New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Assistant Professor,                                                                Dept. of Earth & Environmental Science

2019-2020                    Mineralogical Society of America, Distinguished Lecturer

2017-2019                     Sonoma State University, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Geology

2017-2018                    Keck Geology Consortium Project Director

2015-2017                    National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Peter S. Buck                                                  Post-Doctoral Fellow

2014                             University of Michigan, Post-Doctoral Researcher

2008-2013                  University of Michigan, Doctorate of Philosophy in Experimental                                                                       Geochemistry and Volcanology

2004-2008                 Juniata College, Bachelors of Science in Geology


Waters, L.E., Cottrell, E., Coombs, M.E., Kelley, K.A. (in review) Generation of Calc-Alkaline Magmas During Crystallization at High Oxygen Fugacity: An Experimental and Petrologic Study of Tephras from Buldir Volcano, Western Aleutian Arc, Alaska, USA

Waters, L.E. and Frey, H.M. (2018) Crystal-poor rhyolites and rhyodacites from Volcán Tepetiltic, Mexico: Evidence for melt formation, crystallization and eruption over short timescales. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 361, 36-50.

Waters, L.E. and Lange, R. A. (2017) Why aplites freeze and rhyolites erupt: controls on the accumulation and eruption of high-SiO2 (eutectic) melts. Geology 47 (available online).

Waters, L.E. & Andrews, B.J. (2016) The Role of Superheating in the Formation of Glass Mountain Obsidians (Long Valley, CA) inferred through Crystallization of Sanidine. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 171, 79 (1-19).

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