Baylor Geology Department Dedicates New Laboratory to Professor-Emeritus

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Dr. Kenneth Carlile, Dr. Tom Goforth and Dr. Dan Peppe next to the magnetometer after the laboratory's dedication.
Nov. 18, 2011

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Baylor University's department of geology dedicated the Thomas T. Goforth Paleomagnetism Laboratory recently, in honor of Dr. Tom Goforth, professor-emeritus, who served in the geology department of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1987 until his retirement in 2007, including nine years as department chair.

The geology department's faculty unanimously voted to name the laboratory after Goforth to recognize his important teaching, research and administrative service contributions to the department, said Dr. Steven Driese, professor and chair of the department of geology at Baylor.

"Dr. Goforth's specialty area is geophysics," Driese said, "and the faculty reasoned that that because paleomagnetism is a sub-specialty of geophysical research, it was thus an appropriate way to honor Dr. Goforth."

In the new laboratory, researchers work to understand the magnetic properties of rocks. These properties can be used to determine the rock's age and the geographic location of the rock's formation, as well as provide information about the rock's history of deposition, burial and uplift.

The laboratory's scientific instruments are housed inside a large magnetically shielded room inside the main laboratory space. The magnetostatic shield is made of two layers of steel separated by a 15-inch air gap that has been magnetized to attenuate the earth's magnetic field. Together, the two layers block about 99.6 percent of the earth's magnetic field. The very low magnetic field inside the shield makes it possible to accurately measure the magnetic signatures of rocks and sediments.

"This laboratory will enable Baylor geology faculty and students to determine magnetic polarity of rocks and be able to correlate them in terms of equivalent ages of formation, and is very important to their future research aims," Driese said. "It is the core piece of equipment supporting the research program of assistant professor Dr. Dan Peppe, who works on rocks that often lack other means for determining their geologic ages."

The main instrument inside the shield is a superconducting rock magnetometer that measures the magnetic signature of rocks and sediments. Purchase of this instrument was made possible through the support of Baylor geology alumnus, Dr. Kenneth Q. Carlile, who received his doctoral degree from Baylor in 1996. Carlile is a member of the Baylor University Board of Regents.

Another feature of the laboratory is an automated sample-changing system capable of performing measurements on a series of samples successively between computer inputs. With the installation of the magnetometer and the automated sample charger system, Baylor has become one of ten universities in the Rock and Paleomagnetism Instrument Development (RAPID) Consortium, a virtual institute devoted to improving the speed and precision of paleomagnetic measurements.

The department of geology at Baylor provides undergraduate and graduate education, and develops geoscience students into competent practitioners, whether they choose to work in industry, academia or government sectors of employment. Geology faculty emphasizes teaching state-of-the-art courses and research involving one-on-one mentoring of students, made possible through small class sizes and favorable faculty-to-student ratios. The department boasts 15 faculty and about 25 graduate and 70 undergraduate students.

For more information, contact the department of geology at (254) 710-2361.

About the College of Arts & Sciences

The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University's oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 27 academic departments and 13academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.

by Katy McDowall, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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