Studying and Teaching About the Building Blocks of Our Solar System

Written by Lauren Neitzke Adamo

K Berm

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) would like to welcome Dr. Katherine Bermingham to the faculty. Katherine joined EPS in January 2020 after spending 2 years as a Research Scientist and 6 years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland. There she developed state-of-the-art analytical methods and collected data to constrain the building blocks of Earth and the Solar System. She received her Ph.D. in Natural Sciences from the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany in 2011, where she was a fellow of the prestigious

Her primary research interests are investigating the building blocks of the Solar System and terrestrial planets by tracing their evolution over the last ~4.6 billion years. She splits her research time between cosmochemistry and geochemistry projects that include sampling meteorites and developing high precision isotopic measurement methods of terrestrial materials.  Since joining the Rutgers faculty, Katherine has received several prestigious grants that will allow her to pursue research on tungsten isotopic compositions of mantle rocks to examine the evolution of our planet, purchase a next generation thermal ionization mass spectrometer, as well as build a state-UMd cleanlabof-the-art clean laboratory and mass spectrometry facility called the Earth and Planetary Science Laboratory (EPSIL).  Final stages of construction on this new laboratory are under way, and Katherine is looking forward to producing new siderophile element isotopic data on terrestrial basalts and meteorites soon!

Katherine has also been very active in growing the Planetary Science section of EPS. Most notably, she created and taught three Planetary Science based courses, Building Blocks of the Solar System (100-level), Cosmochemistry (upper UG and grad), and Seminar in Cosmochemistry and GeochemistryKatherine also played a significant role in re-working Structure and Formation of the Terrestrial Planets, a course that is co-taught with Dr. Vadim Levin.  She is also the EPS liaison with the New Jersey Space Grant Consortiuwhich has several annual student space science research opportunities. Katherine is supporting a growing research group that includes Lab Manager, Hope Tornabene, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Yogita Kadlag, Graduate Student, Krys Doran (co-advised with Dr. Juliane Gross), Undergraduate Researcher, Ani Patel, and two incoming graduate Nullarbor 07students.  Students interested in learning more about current topics in Planetary Science can join her at the Cosmos Café.  This biweekly event, co-organized with graduate student Jackie Watters, is used to discuss the latest planetary science discoveries. As one student put it, these gatherings are sure to “tickle your brain!”

Please join us in welcoming Katherine to the department and we look forward to seeing the results of all her efforts that will continue to strengthen the Planetary Science program at Rutgers. Look out for new research opportunities, classes at the undergraduate and graduate level, NJSGC opportunities, and future field trips to hunt for meteorites. She is always looking to work with motivated researchers at all levels (undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars) with a strong background in basic science. Please reach out to Dr. Bermingham directly for more information.