Geology and Geological Engineering

Dr. Gokce Ustunisik
Experimental Petrology, Planetary Geochemistry:
Research Teaching People News & Links Publications CV

Teaching synopsis

As a petrologist and a planetary geochemist, I was always very fortunate to be in a field of study that captivates the constant interest of the general public with its relevance to our daily life ranging from understanding volcanic eruptions to formation and evolution of planetary bodies. I had the opportunity to teach and train diverse groups ranging from underprivileged students in inner-city NY high schools to future Earth Science teachers, geology majors, and M.S. and Ph.D. students.

The varied instructional, mentoring, and advising roles for my graduate students and undergraduate majors that I have taken on from my post-doctoral times to the time as a new faculty at School of Mines have been geared towards working with students to help them achieve the highest level of learning within their capabilities. This involves formulating individualized undergraduate programs while advising each student, challenging them in courses by requiring creative, out-of-the-box thinking even in traditional courses, steering them towards research experiences uniquely suited to their set of talents and interests, and guiding them towards a variety of career choices.

Regardless of the nature of the audience, my ultimate goal in teaching is to convey the passion that I have for my science to my students. I strongly believe that a creative researcher can be an effective teacher. Therefore, I try to provide encouragement and enthusiasm in my students by making them to realize the beauty is not always in the answers given but in the process of thinking - The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious as it is the source of all true art and all science .

My specific courses include:
  • GEOL 341/341L Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, 3 cr. (undergraduate-junior), Basic concepts and principles related to the genesis and evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks; their relation to plate tectonics and magmatic processes are studied through a combination of lectures, labs, and homework assignments. Activities include rock classification and identification using hand specimens, thin sections, as well as thinking along thermodynamics and interpretation of phase diagrams.
  • Course Objectives: At the completion of the course students are expected to demonstrate knowledge of: 1. Physical and chemical processes responsible for formation of igneous and metamorphic rocks in terrestrial environments. 2. Techniques for elucidating this information using phase diagrams, hand specimen, thin section and chemical information from igneous and metamorphic rocks. 3. An understanding of the main associations of igneous and metamorphic rocks and how these reflect their tectonic environments of formation.
  • Course Pre- or Co-requisites:
  • Co-requisites: GEOL 341L
  • Pre-or Co-requisites: GEOL 201/201L

  • GEOL 201/201L, Mineralogy and Crystallography, 3 cr. (undergraduate-sophomore), Study of morphological and geometrical crystallography followed by determinative mineralogy. Main crystal classes, physical and optical properties of silicate and non-silicate minerals are studied in detail. Course includes a brief introduction to optical microscopy. Emphasis in the laboratory is directed toward descriptive and determinative mineralogy.
  • Course Objectives: At the completion of the course students are expected to: 1. Demonstrate the knowledge and application of the techniques to identify unknown mineral specimens based on physical and optical properties, simple determinative tests, and familiarity with mineral classification procedures. 2. Understand geometric and energetic constraints that dictate the order and symmetry of crystal structures at the atomic level and appreciate that the external morphology of the crystal is a reflection of this internal order. 3. Practice the use of petrographic microscope and learn common optical properties to identify major igneous and metamorphic rock forming minerals in thin section. 4. Recognize and know the physical and chemical properties of approximately 50 minerals, including the main rock-forming minerals, ore minerals, industrial minerals, and minerals of environmental importance.
  • Course Pre- or Co-requisites:
  • Co-requisites: CHEM 112
  • Pre-or Co-requisites: GEOL 201/201L or GEOE 221/221L

  • GEOL 644/644L Advanced Petrology, 3 cr. (graduate), This is a seminar type course which is designed to develop deeper understanding of knowledge in analytical, experimental, and numerical modeling techniques used both in terrestrial and planetary petrology with the idea of applying these to graduate student?s own research. Topics include basic concepts and principles related to the genesis and evolution of igneous and metamorphic rocks; quantitative understanding of magmatic and hydrothermal processes through a combination of readings, laboratory exercises, homeworks, and a term report. Activities involve critical analysis of the research papers; enhancing oral and written presentation skills; practice of numerical modeling using applied thermodynamic algorithms including MELTs, P-MELTs, Rhyolite-MELTs; understanding the role of volatiles on partitioning of trace metals and rare earth elements between melt and mineral and melt and vapor phases during hydrothermal processes in the context of their contribution to stabilize ore minerals.

  • GEOL 744 Volcanology, 3 cr. graduate), This course explores how physical and chemical processes drive the creation of the range of volcanoes and volcanic eruptions on Earth. Topics include discussion of methods in (1) quantification of processes such as crystal-liquid separation, crustal assimilation, and magma mixing/recharge and phase equilibria in magma evolution, (2) documenting the timescales that influence melt and crystal aggregation using textural and chemical characteristics observed through petrographic analysis, and (3) at active volcanoes, exploring the relationship between petrologic records of magma processes and geophysical signals that presage volcanic eruptions. Understanding these processes is critical to our ability to predict volcanic processes and their effect on society.

  • GEOL 721 Planetary Geology, 3 cr. (graduate), This class focuses on crustal evolution of planetary bodies (Moon, Mars, Chondrules, and CAIs) and their volatiles by linking the remote sensing observations, analysis of natural samples, and processes simulated by experiments. Topics include concepts that help to answer some of the critical questions: ?How does the idea of degassing affect the accepted view of lunar magma ocean (LMO) and prevailing paradigms for lunar compositional evolution??, ?What are the processes that can affect apatite composition and its fidelity to reflect volatile abundances in lunar interior??, ? How the analysis of Martian meteorites; lander and orbiter data; and experimental investigations focused on constraining the nature of Martian magmas and the fluids that have exsolved from them help us to constrain the development of igneous stratigraphy of the Martian crust, and interaction of magmatic fluids with the Martian crust and the formation of hydrothermal alteration assemblages?, ?Can we simulate a Martian fumarole activity in the laboratory to understand the potential effects of magma degassing on surrounding rock and melt chemistry??, and ?What are the processes that modified the mineralogy of chondrule precursor materials, alkali (Na, K) and volatile (Cl) abundances of their precursor melts, their thermal histories??

contact: Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, 501 E. Saint Joseph St., SDSMT, Rapid City, SD 57701
phone: (605)394-2461 / fax: (605)394-6703 / email: