VPL lab group & facilities

The Volcanology and Petrology Lab at WVU consists of myself, PhD candidate Shelby Isom, MS student Holly Pettus, and soon-to-start MS student Andy McGrady.


graduate students



Ms Shelby Isom (Boise State 2015, Portland State 2017)

Shelby joined WVU in August 2017 to begin work on her PhD thesis. Shelby is working on two themes related to the flow of silicic lavas at the Inyo Domes, CA:

  • the emplacement dynamics of silicic lavas, and

  • the petrogenesis of different coeval silicic magmas at Inyo Domes.

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

Shelby became a PhD candidate in April 2019.


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 will be starting her MS research in the lab in May 2019, examining the development of lava deltas when terrestrial lavas reach a shoreline.

WVU Student Spotlight article

Holly is a native of Pineville, WV.


recent 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.

Brenna’s 2019 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.

Emma’s 2019 WVU Undergraduate Research Symposium poster.


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.

Charlotte’s 2019 WVU undergraduate Research Symposium poster.


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.


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.


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 digital slide scanner, a IR thermal imaging camera, a sample photography set-up to make 3D sample models, and a DJI Phantom 4 Advanced quadracopter 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