Our group includes students and personnel based on campus, in Honolulu, as well as several scientists working at the Argonne National Laboratory. Our graduate students are enrolled in PhD program administered through the Department of Geology and Geophysics, where Przemek holds a graduate faculty position. We also employ UHM undergraduates for shorter-term projects, and host visits of students from other Universities.

We constantly look for new students, so if you find our research interesting, please contact Przemek by email ( to learn about employment opportunities.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Przemyslaw Dera

Przemyslaw (Przemek) Dera is a Professor of Mineral Physics and Extreme Materials Science at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu. He obtained his Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 2000 from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, under tutelage of Prof. Andrzej Katrusiak. Prior to moving to Hawaii, he worked as research scientist at Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory (2000-2007) and University of Chicago’s Center for Advanced Radiation Sources (2007-2013). Przemek has been closely involved in the activities of high-pressure research community both within USA, as well as internationally. He chaired the International Union of Crystallography Commission on High Pressure (2008-2014) and served as member and vice-chair the Executive Committee of COMPRES, the Consortium for Materials Properties Research in Earth Sciences (2010-2013). His main scientific interests include study of pressure-induced displacive phase transitions and spin crossover phenomena in materials, with particular emphasis on minerals relevant to planetary interiors. Przemek is an Elected Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America (2013) and was selected as Distinguished Lecturer for COMPRES in 2015. He has authored and co-authored over 100 papers in scientific journals, 4 book chapters, and co-edited 4 books and journal special volumes.

Research Scientists

Dr. Dongzhou Zhang, PX^2 Beamline Scientist

Dongzhou Zhang received his B.S. in physics from Peking University, Beijing, China, in 2008. He completed his Ph.D. in geophysics under the supervision of Prof. Jennifer Jackson at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, in 2014. He is currently the beamline scientist of the Partnership for eXtreme Xtallography program affiliated with the University of Hawaii at Manoa and located at the GeoSoilEnviroCARS at Argonne National Laboratory. His research interests include physics and chemistry of the planetary interiors, high pressure physics and synchrotron based X-ray techniques. He received several awards, including the Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad (2013) and the American Geophysical Union Mineral and Rock Physics Graduate Research Award (2015).

Dr. Gregory Finkelstein, HIGP Mineral Physics Lab Manager

Greg received his B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis with majors in Earth and Planetary Sciences and in Anthropology. He continued on to Princeton, where he worked in Tom Duffy’s experimental mineral physics lab and completed a Ph.D. in Geosciences and Materials Science. In his research, Greg uses x-ray crystallography and spectroscopic techniques to characterize the crystal structures and physical properties of planetary materials at high pressures and temperatures. Insights from this work are used to enhance our understanding of the dynamics and structure of planetary interiors.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Patrick Barnett, Postdoctoral Fellow

Patrick received a BS in Chemistry at the University of Central Missouri in 2011. His undergraduate research focused on the development of an electrochemical method for the quantification of carbon in soil which was applied to determining the carbon sequestration of several species of Panicum virgatum (commonly known as switchgrass) to explore the potential of using these species for carbon capture to offset CO2 emissions.

Patrick received a PhD in Analytical Chemistry at the University of South Carolina in 2016. His graduate research focused on the development of a miniature spatial heterodyne spectrometer (SHS) for Raman spectroscopy and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) for planetary exploration and other extreme environments. The SHS is a dispersive interferometer with no moving parts which is amenable to miniaturization down to a footprint of only several millimeters while maintaining the sensitivity, resolution, and spectral range of conventional Raman and LIBS spectrometers many times larger in size. Patrick also demonstrated the first application of a standard, off-the-shelf cell phone camera as a detector for a miniature Raman spectrometer, resulting in the first published results of cell phone Raman spectroscopy.

Patrick started a postdoctoral fellowship with Shiv Sharma at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology in early 2017. His work has focused on spectroscopic studies of minerals under pressure and temperature conditions similar to the surface of Venus to provide data necessary for planning and designing spectroscopic instruments for future Venus lander missions. He has also taken part in designing a Raman and fluorescence spectrometer as part of a proposed scientific payload for a future Europa lander mission. Patrick is currently helping to expand the analytical capabilities of the Dera lab into Raman spectroscopy to provide additional data for mineralogical samples in high pressure and temperature diamond-anvil cell systems.

Graduate Students

Yi Hu, PhD Student

Yi’s thesis research is focused on understanding metastable polymorphism in pyroxene minerals in the context of subduction zone modeling. Yi uses advanced crystallographic methods and synchrotron diffraction, as well as DFT calculations and phase equilibria modeling to study previously unknown discontinuous transformations in natural mantle pyroxenes and model synthetic end-members. Within this project we collaborate with several other CDAC-supported groups, including Princeton University, University of Arizona and Northwestern University. Yi is a recipient of the prestigious continuing graduate student Bullard Fellowship for 2017.

Hannah Shelton, PhD Student

Hannah’s thesis research focuses on understanding the role and consequences of hydrogen bonds in controlling compressional behavior and phase transitions in solids. Hannah uses advanced crystallographic methods, including time-resolved synchrotron diffraction and pressure-ramp approach to study two classes of materials: (a) organic solids that have similar molecular structures, and packing patterns, but differ in hydrogen bond formation ability and (b) isostructural couples of inorganic solids that are fully hydrated (e.g. hydroxide) and fully anhydrous (e.g. oxide). Within this project we collaborate with several other CDAC-supported groups, including University of Arizona, Northwestern University and University of Alabama.

Tommy Yong, PhD Student

Tommy did his undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Tommy is a recipient of the prestigious incoming graduate student Bullard Fellowship for 2017. His thesis research focuses on understanding the role and fate of metastable pyroxenes and amphiboles in the subduction process and magma generation.

Sasithorn (May) Chornkrathok, MSc Student

May obtained a B.Sc. degree in Geology at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. She is a recipient of prestigious Development and Promotion of Science and Technology Talents Project (DPST) graduate scholarship awarded by the government of Thailand. Her M.Sc. thesis research ay UH focuses on understanding the role of Ni and Co phosphides in planetary cores.

Technical and Engineering Staff

Harold Garbeil, ATREX Software Development

Mario Williamson, PX^2 Engineering Support

People who moved on

Linda Martel, AREX Outreach Specialist

Jingui Xu, Visiting PhD Student

Jingui was a visiting student from Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences. His Ph.D. study focuses on phase transitions and equation of state of hydrous pyroxenes

Dr. Jin S. Zhang, COMPRES Technology Officer

Jin was a Research Scientist and Technology Officer for COMPTECH, COMPRES Technology Center at Argonne from November 2014 until July 2016. Jin graduated with a PhD in Geophysics from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and her main specialty is Brillouin Spectroscopy. She is now an Assistant Professor in the Geology Department and Institute of Meteoritics at University of New Mexico.