Geological Sciences and

Geological Engineering

site header

Research Fields

With high-tech geochemistry and geophysics labs, geomechanics computing tools, and Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research lab to work in, our students have the opportunity to engage in cutting-edge geoscience and geoengineering research. As well, students are able to work in first-rate facilities with world-renowned scientists and research engineers, and have opportunities to collaborate with industrial leaders and engage in extensive fieldwork on six continents, making our program truly a world-class experience. Students can also collaborate with other departments at Queen’s, including Mining, Environmental Studies, Chemistry and Biology as well as other institutions like RMC.

As students and future researchers, you will have a chance to dive into a world of research possibilities. Click on one of the key research fields below for more detailed information regarding this research and core faculty.

Economic Geology & Mineral Exploration

Economic Geology & Mineral Exploration has been a strong graduate field at Queen's University for many decades, and our research and training in porphyry deposits, lithophile-metal deposits, epithermal deposits, Archean gold deposits, ore-forming fluids in Precambrian sedimentary basins, Andean metallogenesis, ore fragmentation and mine stability, and mineral economics is especially well known.

Economic geology research and teaching at Queen's is highly collaborative and multidisciplinary, integrating field work and site visits with mineral-deposit modeling, laboratory investigation and economic e valuation. This integrated approach is reflected in co-supervision of graduate students and shared teaching responsibilities. Because of industrial interest in the understanding and development of mineral deposits, the field of Economic Geology provides opportunity for researchers to interact with the private sector.

The core faculty of the field of economic geology and mineral exploration are complemented by other faculty members and by adjunct professors who teach regular courses, present short courses and modules, and lead field trips. The most active of the Adjuncts is H. Poulsen who teaches a course in structural geology and ore deposits, leads a fall field trip through the Abitibi, and acts as a resource for economic geology and mineral exploration students. Dr. Poulsen retired from the Geological Survey of Canada as a specialist in Archean gold terranes and is recognized as one of the foremost experts in the world in this field. Dr. James Franklin, former Chief Scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, also serves as an adjunct and periodically offers short courses in the field of volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits, as well as providing advice to graduate students in relevant fields. Karl Harries has been an adjunct in our department for many years and brings 40 years of experience in the legal and mining industries to his short courses on the legal aspects of mineral exploration. Having direct access to this type of expertise provides graduate students with a dimension to their mineral exploration education that they are unlikely to receive in any other university geology department. Rob Harrap is an expert on GIS and works as the Director of the GIS Laboratory in the Department of Geography at Queen's University. Rob teaches courses to graduate students in the use of GIS for exploration. Rob's geological background in structural geology and tectonics is put to use in helping to lead our major graduate field trip each spring.

Petrology & Structural Geology

Queen's University has been regarded as a national leader in mineralogy, petrology (especially metamorphic and experimental igneous petrology), and structural geology and tectonics (principally of the Canadian Shield and the Cordillera) since the early part of the 20th century. These four subdisciplines that comprise Petrology & Structural Geology are highly integrated, and Petrology & Structural Geology in turn is closely linked with and critical to Fields I (Economic Geology & Mineral Exploration) and IV (Geophysics & Geochronology) in our department. The integration of field-, lab-, and model-based studies is a hallmark of graduate teaching and research in Petrology & Structural Geology at Queen's University. In structural geology/tectonics, graduate fieldwork in the Cordillera, Canadian Shield, and now the Himalayas, coupled with modeling in the Experimental Tectonics Laboratory, provides a nearly ideal opportunity to investigate the processes that produce crustal-scale features. This integration is also well illustrated by the mixture of experimental and field-based mineralogy and petrology.

Projects cover a wide range of scales, from microstructural features developed at the mineral scale (the new microstructural laboratory permits the observation and quantification of strain in minerals) to major fault systems at the continental scale (based on field & modeling investigations). Projects span the entire geological time scale, from Archean structure and tectonics, through work on the Cordillera and Himalaya, to present-day neotectonics of the Great Lakes. Crustal-dynamics problems are investigated with the integration of: modeling, structural geology, geochronology and tectonics; mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, and economic geology; and geophysics, crustal dynamics, and neotectonics. The dynamic analysis of crustal evolution requires control on timing and deep-seated geometry, which involves the use of integrated geochronological and geophysical studies (see Field IV below), respectively.

Sedimentology, Sedimentary Geochemistry & Paleobiology

Sedimentology, Sedimentary Geochemistry & Paleobiology is an exceptionally strong and well-integrated graduate field, and Queen's University is especially well known for research in Precambrian sedimentology, cool-water carbonates, reefal environments, coastal environments, the evolution of sedimentary basins, and the early evolution of animals. The ability to integrate seismic imaging into projects is a strength. All four of the core professors are world leaders in their respective subdisciplines, have won national and international awards for their research, and have held significant leadership roles in national and international geoscience organizations.

In addition to standard instruction and supervision, during the first two years of their program all graduate students in this field participate in three, week-long field trips (Quebec, New York, and either Nova Scotia or Bermuda) run by the core professors; this provides an exceptional environment for mentoring and for instruction on physical, chemical, and biological processes in both modern and ancient settings. There is a fruitful linkage with the Canadian petroleum industry, with continuous industry support for specific graduate student projects and our field-trip program.

Geophysics & Geochronology

This field is especially strong in seismology at scales ranging from global to local, and in geochronology utilizing Ar/Ar dating. It contains individuals recognized internationally, not only for advancing theoretical understanding and practical methodologies within their specialties, but also for collaborative contributions stretching from gross regional structure of the Earth to the engineering- and economic-geology scales. Seismology graduate students work with data from either controlled sources or earthquakes, using leading-edge processing and inversion tools within projects focusing on the upper mantle, the deep crust, basin-scale reflection imaging, cross-borehole tomography, or very small-scale, shallow-depth, engineering-seismic surveys.

p>Through inter-institutional projects such as POLARIS and POLO, seismology students are exposed to other geophysical methods, such as gravity, electromagnetics, and geomechanics. Students in geochronology join a group that has been strong in the department for more than two decades; by its nature, the research in this area is well integrated with other departmental activities in structural geology, tectonics, sedimentology, geochemistry, and economic geology.

Using a state-of-the-art laser lab, the research of the geochronology group focuses on elucidating fundamental problems in the Earth Sciences, ranging from the timing of economic mineralization on a local scale, to the duration and evolution of crustal-scale tectonic processes.

In addition to supervising their own graduate students, core geochronology staff members are commonly involved in the joint supervision of graduate students based in Fields I, II, or III; their graduate courses are generally attended by students from a variety of different geological fields. The most recent Ph.D. graduate from the Geophysics program is now a Post-doctoral Fellow in a Himalayan seismology project based in the U.S., and the preceding two M.Sc. graduates have petroleum-industry jobs in Calgary and S. Africa. This typifies the ability of graduates from this program to pursue opportunities in either academe or industry; in both situations they have been very successful, reaching Full Professor and Senior Scientist ranks. Geochronology graduates follow similar career paths.

Applied Geo-Environmental Science & Geotechnique

Applied Geo-Environmental Science and Geotechnique (Hydrogeology, Environmental Geochemistry, Geotechnical Engineering, and Geo-Environmental Engineering) is a relatively young but vibrant graduate field at Queen's. This subdiscipline is open to graduate students from both engineering and pure-science backgrounds, who can obtain their graduate degrees from either respective graduate division (III and IV) at Queen's. Current graduate research includes issues dealing with: mine-waste or industrial-contaminant interaction with sediment, bedrock and/or groundwater; waste impact assessment and containment; fluid flow in fractured ground; geological controls on wetland processes and environmental sustainability; natural and anthropogenic geo-hazard prediction and mitigation; subsidence prediction and risk management; geological factors for infrastructure development; underground design; and GIS/Geomatics.

The core professors in this field are very well respected in the national and international community and members of this group have recently received a number of key research awards and honours at the university, provincial, national, and international levels. The supporting professors and researchers within the department provide additional strengths in key fields of research investigation.

All of the core professors are also Research Directors in the Geo-Engineering Centre at Queen's University and Royal Military College.

This centre provides for formalized collaboration and graduate-student interaction across four engineering departments in two institutions. In addition to standard instruction and supervision, students within this group have the opportunity to participate in a full-year graduate seminar series hosted by the Geo-Engineering Centre.

H. Jamieson is also a member of the Queen's School of Environmental Studies, further enhancing the potential for collaborative graduate research.

For a full listing of facilities and services the department has to offer, visit the Facilities & Services page.