Heat and Mass Transfer and Experimental Rheology (HAMsTER) Lab

Welcome to the HAMsTER Lab!

We are petrologists and planetary scientists, applying materials science techniques to understanding volcanic activity on Earth and other planets.

On Earth, we observe and sample both active and ancient lava flows (recent field areas include Hawaii, Iceland, Guatemala, California, and New Mexico). We can also make our own lava in the lab, for places that are difficult or impossible to sample (recent extraterrestrial studies have focused on Mercury, the Moon, and Mars, as well as cryolava on Europa).

The mobility of lava varies strongly with temperature, and lava moves heat within volcanic systems, so we study both rheology and heat transfer. We measure the viscosity, heat capacity, thermal diffusivity and conductivity of lavas to high temperatures, and model behavior as a function of temperature, composition, and crystallinity.

We collaborate on lunar in situ resource utilization projects with the UTSA College of Engineering and external partners. We study the thermodynamics and crystallization behavior of different regolith compositions, from mare basalt to highlands anorthosite, with the goal of optimizing the production of construction materials on the Moon.

We collaborate on projects led by UTSA Physics and Astronomy to study circumstellar dust, combining laboratory synthesis and analysis with observational astronomy to identify what mineral phases form around stars.


Dr. Alan Whittington


Contact me if you are interested in undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral research in petrology, volcanology, and planetary geology at UTSA.

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lab group
The HAMsTER Lab Group, Summer 2022

Standing (L to R): Ashley Emerson MS in Geosciences; Brenna Halverson, PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering; Dr. Aaron Morrison, postdoc; Austin Patridge, BS in Geosciences; Andrea Mazzeo, PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering; Cody Cly, PhD in Physics and Astronomy; Dr. Anis Parsapoor, postdoc; John Dye, MS in Geosciences
Kneeling (L to R): Lauren Schwartz, MS in Geosciences; Daniela Bartels, BS in Geosciences; [telepresence] Thomas Herbst, PhD in Geological Sciences (University of Missouri); Dr. Alan Whittington