Tweeting under pressure (and temperature): thanks and farewell Prof Abby Kavner

Professor Abby Kavner of UCLA’s Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences was our curator for the past week on RealScientists, answering your questions and tweeting about her research and her life in and out of the lab and office. Abby’s interests are in the physics of materials and minerals as they relate to planets, for instance their behaviour under high pressures, temperatures and magnetic conditions (as per the interior of a planet’s core). This takes her to some interesting places:

Abby RS fieldwork

Abby RS synchrotron

Abby’s week on the account touched on everything from electrochemical isotope fractionation (assessing how fast chemical reactions happen), to work-life balance and the pros and cons of sharing ideas in science, to developing new projects at the intersection of mineral physics and seismology, to whether you can make diamonds out of peanut butter… (hat tip to @Tanya_Ha for this response!) If you missed anything from Abby’s week, we’ll have a Storify of her curation available in a day or so the Storify is here.Thanks very much to Abby for her wonderful work this week. Keep following her @mineralphys.

Next week we migrate a little further north along the Californian coast to meet up with crystallographer Dr Christine Beavers, aka @XtalGrrl, of the Advanced Light Source Facility, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Let’s get Geophysical – Abby Kavner joins Real Scientists

“Earth and planetary interiors, mineral physics, electrochemistry, stable isotopes, carbon and water at high P“,

where P=pressure. The physics and chemistry of the interiors of planets is what motivates our next curator, Prof Abby Kavner.




Prof Kavner is a geophysicist at the University of California, Los Angeles:

“I’m interested in materials science applied to the Earth and planets. I’m an experimentalist, and study the behavior of all sorts of materials at high pressures and temperatures. The materials: solids, liquids, silicates, oxides, halides, metals, carbon- and water-bearing too. The properties: phase diagrams, melting, elastic properties, electrical & thermal conductivity, partition coefficients between phases.

I’m also interested in physical chemistry and electrochemistry. I study electrochemical isotope separation.”


Growing up in upstate New York State, Prof Kavner went to Arlington High School in Dutchess County, then to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, majoring in Materials Science & Engineering.  She went on to the University of California at Berkeley & got a Masters in Materials Science & Engineering.  She then switched to a PhD in Geophysics from the same institution.


Following her PhD, Abby did postdoctoral work in Princeton and Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. Since 2002, Abby has been a faculty member at UCLA.


We asked Prof. Kavner how she ended up in science and why she chose the earth sciences, in particular:

Short answer—by never taking the exit door!

Growing up, Pete Seeger was one of my heroes. He helped start an environmental movement to clean up the Hudson-River. I majored in engineering, and then decided to combine my materials study with Earth sciences.

Outside of the lab, Prof Kavner describes

A rich life, including close family including husband and 15 yr-old son. I bike around town, shop the farmers markets, and cook dinner most nights.


Finally, Prof Kavner talked about her blogging and what motivated it:


I started a blog to connect with others. Two blogs that I read: Athene Donald’s and Female Science Professor both called on more female physical science professors to share their lives online, so I started my own blog. Most of my outreach is informal, and simply involves being open to interactions, listening to others, and telling the truth as I see it.


Please welcome Prof Abby Kavner/@mineralphys to Real Scientists.