College of Science Lecture Series returns in person to delve into the mineral world

Shelves housing gems and minerals

The Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 3 in its larger, newly renovated space in the Pima County Historic Courthouse. This year's College of Science Lecture Series will delve into the importance of minerals.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

Minerals are the building blocks of the solar system, Earth and civilization. During the 17th annual College of Science Lecture Series, University of Arizona faculty members will discuss the origins of minerals, the stories they tell and the future of critical minerals in society. 

"It has been more than two years since the College of Science has hosted a live lecture series, and we are very excited to welcome audiences back to Centennial Hall," said Carmala Garzione, dean of the College of Science. "We have a tremendous lineup of faculty presenters who will share their deep understanding on a fascinating and diverse range of topics, from what minerals tell us about the history of our solar system and planet to the future of mining and sustainable mining practices."

The free lecture series, which starts March 3 and concludes April 7, will take place in person at Centennial Hall and also be livestreamed on YouTube. Doors open to the public at 6 p.m., and presentations begin at 7 p.m. and last about an hour. For the safety of all attendees, face masks are required inside Centennial Hall.

The series come on the heels the recent reopening of the university's Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum. The world-class collection of gems and minerals can be found in its new space in the Pima County Historic Courthouse after four years of renovation.

The schedule for the 2021 College of Science Lecture Series:

March 3 – The Building Blocks of Civilization
Bob Downs
, geosciences professor emeritus and former Gem & Mineral Museum curator

Minerals are at the center of our universe. From the cosmic origins of the solar system to the vital role they play in society today, minerals are the building blocks of humanity. In this talk, Downs will discuss what minerals are, the evolution of minerals through geologic time and their vast societal impacts. 

March 10 – The Stories That Minerals Tell
Mauricio Ibañez-Mejia
, geosciences assistant professor

"How old is the Earth?" It's a question scientists have researched for centuries. In this talk, Ibañez-Mejia will explore how minerals serve as time capsules of terrestrial and cosmic evolution, and how they can be used to reconstruct the timescales of our planet. The rocks, fossils, mountains and landforms all around us tell a fascinating story.

March 17 – Gems and Planetary Evolution
Ananya Mallik
, geosciences assistant professor

Gems are revered throughout history for their natural beauty. They also serve as a time machine for our planet. In this talk, Mallik will discuss how diamonds, jades and rubies are studied to better understand the evolution of Earth, and how minerals can serve as an X-ray of the planet's inner layers.

March 31 – Arizona, Copper and Critical Minerals
Isabel Barton
, mining and geological engineering assistant professor

As a society, we need metals and minerals more than ever to maintain our technological advances. The state of Arizona will have a large part to play in those efforts. In this talk, Barton will explore the impact of critical minerals found in Arizona and the importance of meeting resource demands in the future.

April 7 – Mining in A Greener Future

Raina Maier, environmental sciences professor and director of the UArizona Superfund Research Program

Do you own a smartphone, TV or electric car? It takes a complex mix of metals to create each device. The future of mining is green, and there are currently no viable options for traditional mining of metals. In this closing talk of the series, Maier will discuss our dependence on metals and possibilities for disruptive change in how we mine metals in the future.