Highlands paleomagnetic lab expands

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LAS VEGAS — New Mexico Highlands University has a teaching and research facility unmatched in New Mexico and surrounding states, thanks to more than $1.1 million in instrument grants since 2008 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The latest $153,915 NSF grant adds a vibrating sample magnetometer to Highlands University’s state-of-the-art paleomagnetic-rock magnetic laboratory.

“This exciting new equipment provides an innovative tool to conduct sensitive experiments in geology, chemistry, physics, biology, archaeology, material science and art,” said Highlands geology professor and laboratory director Michael Petronis. “Collectively, the paleomagnetic-rock magnetic laboratory offers facilities that give our students the opportunity to conduct transformative research across many science disciplines, and even the arts.”

Petronis wrote a number of the National Science Foundation grants to fund the lab equipment alone and co-authored others with fellow Highlands geology professor Jennifer Lindline.

Petronis said paleomagnetism studies the history of the earth’s magnetic fields recorded in rocks, but another important application concerns pressing environmental issues like climate change.

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