VPL lab group & facilities

The Volcanology and Petrology Lab at WVU consists of myself, undergraduate researchers Brenna Cole, Levi Fath, Emma Krolczyk, and Charlotte Lilly, PhD candidates Alyssa Kaess and Shelby Isom, and lab technician and alumna Holly Pettus.


graduate students



Mrs Alyssa Kaess (CSU Bakersfield 2012, 2015)

Alyssa joined WVU in August 2017 to begin work on her PhD thesis. Alyssa will be working on two themes related to the sedimentological and stratigraphic evolution of continental back arc regions in the Cordillera: 

  • the Quaternary geomorphological evolution of the Fraser River canyon and basin, British Columbia, and

  • the sedimentary stratigraphic record of volcanism and quiescence in the Eocene - Miocene Sierra Madre Occidental silicic large igneous province.

Alyssa's MS thesis considered the diagenetic history and evolution of sandstones in the San Joaquin Basin of southern California, with an emphasis on their potential as CO2 sequestration reservoirs.



Ms Shelby Isom (Boise State 2014, Portland State 2017)

Shelby joined WVU in August 2017 to begin work on her PhD thesis. Shelby will be working on two themes related to the flow of silicic volcanic deposits:

  • the emplacement dynamics of silicic lavas at Mammoth Mountain and Mono Lake, CA, and

  • the evolution of 3D strain during the transition from welding to rheomorphism in tuffs.

Shelby's MS thesis considered the igneous and volcanic petrogenesis of the Devine Canyon tuff in eastern Oregon.


research technician


Holly Pettus

WVU graduate Holly Pettus (class of 2018) worked with Dr. Ken Brown on megacrystic K-feldspars from Granite Peak Stock. She investigated the origin of the K-spars with petrography and geochemical analysis (microXRF and EMPA). Holly was a 2017-18 NASA Space Grant Scholar.

This is Holly during her REU at the University of Hawaii in the summer of 2017. Holly is holding a dredged basalt clast from the ocean floor around Molokai.

Holly is a research technician in the VPL working on the petrology of SMO rhyolites, and assisting myself and other students in research and teaching preparation.

WVU Student Spotlight article

Holly is a native of Pineville, WV.


current undergraduate research students 

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Brenna Cole

WVU junior Brenna Cole (class of 2020) is working with me on the transport and emplacement of kimberlite magma, using the local Masontown kimberlite as an example. Brenna worked with me in 2017-18 estimating the rheology of obsidian lavas from the geometry of surface features in LiDAR images. Brenna was a member of WVU's champion Mine Rescue Team in 2017 and 2018.

Brenna is a native of Ellicottville, NY.

Brenna's 2018 WVU Undergraduate Research Symposium poster.


Emma Krolczyk

WVU junior Emma Krolczyk (Class of 2020) is working with me on the emplacement of a submarine pumice deposit erupted from a volcano in Japan and recovered in core from IODP expedition 350.

Emma comes from Morgantown, WV.


Charlotte Lilly

WVU junior Charlotte Lilly (Class of 2020) is working with me on the geomorphic evolution of the Fraser River basin in British Columbia, Canada.

Charlotte hails from Mercer, WV.


Anna Himelstein

WVU junior Anna Himelstein (Class of 2020) comes from Philadelphia, PA, and is working with me to image and measure the rotation of small clasts in deformed volcanic rocks.


past undergraduate research students


Andrew McGrady

WVU junior Andrew McGrady (class of 2019) working with me on the morphology and distribution of exhumed Carboniferous rock-cored drumlins in Namibia.

Andy is doing research with my colleague Dr. Shikha Sharma in 2018-19 and continues as her lab assistant in the stable isotope lab. Andrew is a 2017-18 NASA Space Grant Scholar.

Andy transferred to WVU in Fall 2016 from WVUTech, and is a native of Hamlin, WV.

Andy's 2018 WVU Undergraduate Research Symposium poster.


Nickolas Fair

WVU junior Nick Fair (class of 2019) worked with me on mapping terraces formed by the paleo-Fraser River in British Columbia.

Nick comes from Weirton, WV.

Nick's 2018 WVU Research Symposium poster.


faculty colleagues


Dr. Ken Brown

Dr. Ken Brown is a Teaching Assistant Professor in WVU's Department of Geology & Geography. Ken is a petrologist and geochemist with degrees from IUPUI and Miami University (OH).

Find out more about Ken and his teaching and research here.


equipment and facilities


The VPL consists of several petrographic and binocular microscopes and associated digital cameras, petrographic point-counting equipment, two high-powered PCs for GIS and graphics work, a very powerful PC workstation for 3D model-building, and a large teaching and research collection of rock samples and petrographic thin sections. We also have equipment for constructing temporary experimental rigs for volcanology demonstrations and class projects. We have a large and growing collection of shared field equipment ranging from camping supplies to digital rangefinders, ruggedized tablet PCs and iPads,  and other surveying equipment. Fun toys include GoPro Hero 4 HD cameras, a IR thermal imaging camera, a sample photography set-up to make 3D sample models, and a DJI Phantom 4 Advanced quadcopter drone.

Elsewhere in the Geology & Geography Department we have access to mineral separation equipment, rock saws, a handheld XRF, a fluid inclusion lab, a stable isotope lab, and top-class GIS and 3D visualization software and expertise. Elsewhere on campus we have access to XRD, TEM, FTIR, Raman, and SEM through the Shared Research Facility