Mountains with stripes of different colored rock

‘Sleuthing out the histories locked inside ancient rocks’

Geoscientist honored for ‘pioneering efforts’ in his field

August 21, 2019

Mike Jercinovicgeosciences, accepted the Microanalysis Society’s (MAS) Fellow Award at its annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 5. The honor recognizes “eminent scientists, engineers and technologists in the field of microanalysis of materials and related phenomena who have distinguished themselves through outstanding research and service to the microanalysis community,” MAS states. 

Mike JercinovicFellows are nominated by their peers and reviewed in a “highly selective” process for recognizing career accomplishments. In 2018, MAS named its first class of “Legend Fellows” of members considered to be “legends in the field of microanalysis.” This year they were followed by a group recognized as “Inaugural Fellows.”   

Jercinovic says of the recognition, “This is a tremendous honor, certainly something you don’t expect. I am particularly grateful as the other members entering this inaugural class are so remarkably accomplished – it is quite a privilege to stand alongside them. 

Julie Brigham-Grette, head of geosciences, adds, “We are tremendously proud to have Mike Jercinovic here at UMass, managing one of the world’s best known and most precise microprobe laboratories anywhere!”  

Jercinovic is no stranger to accolades from MAS, as in 2016 he won its Presidential Science Award for “outstanding technical contributions to the field of microanalysis over a sustained period of time.” The MAS president said, “Your pioneering efforts in geo-chronology with electron microprobe have been both excellent and sustained for many years. As a society, we want you to know that we have noticed and that we are appreciative.” 

Jercinovic’s research interests involve using electron probe micro-analysis in minor and trace element applications, which is useful in such diverse fields as tectonics, the study of igneous and metamorphic rocks, meteorites, chemical engineering and climate science. He and geosciences colleague Michael Williams were successful in 2001 in gaining support from the National Science Foundation for adding significant instrumentation to the campus in the one-of-a-kind instrument. This machine was developed in partnership with Cameca for exploring very high spatial resolution analysis at high sensitivity, Jercinovic says. The two are now applying electron probe micro-analysis to address geo-chronologic problems associated with complex tectonic histories. 

More recently, Williams and Jercinovic were successful with another NSF major research instrumentation proposal to acquire a new, highly versatile Cameca SXfive-Tactis electron probe, the first of this new generation installed in December 2018 anywhere in the world, he adds. 

Jercinovic says that one of the current frontiers in geological research involves learning more about fundamental Earth processes such as the construction and evolution of continents. This will advance understanding of crustal processes and planetary tectonics and the evolution of life on Earth. He has explained that this research involves “sleuthing out the histories locked inside ancient rocks, which are recorded in the minerals that compose them.” 

Coronitic Overgrowths Microprobe

He and Williams have been using the electron probe to establish the age of minerals within rocks and to link the growth of these minerals to specific events in Earth’s history, taking “a revolutionary approach” to investigate the timing and duration of large scale events such as the assembly of the North American continent. They say the lab is now recognized as one of the top such facilities in the world. 

Jercinovic teaches a course in electron microprobe analysis, and has trained a large number of post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduates to use the new state-of-the-art instruments. He earned his Ph.D. in geology from the University of New Mexico in 1988, and was first introduced to electron probe micro-analysis at its Institute of Meteoritics. After postdoctoral work, Jercinovic directed the MIT electron microprobe facility for several years. He came to campus as a research faculty member in 1997. 

 

Read on:  

Share this story: