Frank Spera

Principal Investigator


Frank J. Spera is a professor in Earth Science at the University of California Santa Barbara since 1985.  He was an undergraduate in geology at Franklin & Marshall College and was awarded the MS and PhD in 1974 and 1977, respectively, from the University of California Berkeley. He served from 1977-1985 as Assistant and then Associate Professor in Geological and Geophysical Sciences at Princeton University. He teaches classes at the undergraduate and graduate level in mineralogy, petrology, planetary science, thermodynamics of geochemical systems and volcanology. His research focuses on magma transport phenomena and the irreversible thermodynamics of geological systems. He was elected as a Fellow of the Mineralogical society of America in 1997 and has published over a hundred technical publications. He served as an expert advisor on three US Department of Energy panels relevant to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project.


Spera has studied the thermodynamics and transport phenomena relevant to the generations, segregation, ascent, storage, crystallization, and eruption of magma on Earth and other planets from the atomic scale to the planetary scale. He has used Molecular Dynamics Simulations to study the thermodynamic and transport properties of multicomponent silicate melts and has applied results to mesoscale magma transport phenomena. He has studied convection in porous media including thermohaline convection as a well as convection in magma bodies driven by gradients in temperature and composition. He has studied the compressible fluid mechanics of erupting magma and has worked on volcanoes in the Canary Islands, Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius, Hawaii and plutonic rocks in the Sierra Nevada of California. When not studying Earth Science he attempts to master the art of drumming, listen to and play music and accompany his Shiba Inu canine friends on long walks.