Ken Brown is a Teaching Assistant Professor at West Virginia University. He began serving as a GeoCUR Councilor in 2017.
“As a Teaching Assistant Professor at WVU, one of my primary goals is to provide a memorable classroom experience that will have a strong, positive impact on my students. Thus, one of the best parts of teaching/mentoring is helping my students gain a deeper appreciation and awareness for the Earth and its many components. By helping my students understand how our planet works, they will be better prepared to solve the geologic and environmental problems of the future. My current research projects combinefieldwork, elemental and isotopic analyses, geochronology, and high-spatial resolution microanalytical techniques to place important constraints on challenging geologic and environmental problems. Currently, I have several research projects that my undergraduate students and I are exploring.
One of these projects is aimed at understanding the origins of exceptionally large potassium-feldspar crystals (>4cm) that are found within rocks that represent the once-active roots of ancient volcanic systems. Although potassium feldspar is a common rock-forming mineral, the formation of large, perfectly-shaped potassium feldspar crystals has remained a long-standing controversy in igneous petrology for nearly 100 years. My students and I are using detailed microscopy and geochemistry to test competing hypotheses regarding the enigmatic origins of these crystals.
I am also working with undergraduate students to solve environmental problems. More specifically, my students and I are currently evaluatingthe spatial distribution of heavy metal contaminants (Pb, Hg, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn, and Cd) in soils within Morgantown, WV. Because Morgantown is located within a region with a well-documented legacy of coal burning and mining operations, this city is an excellent location to evaluate the links between heavy metal contamination caused by coal burning and its impacts on human health.”