Earth & Space Science
Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Field Geology, Geophysics, Structural Geology
Dr. Bosbyshell's research is concerned with the tectonic and thermal evolution of mountain belts, with an emphasis on developing a modern tectonic interpretation for the Central Appalachians. By combining detailed mapping with structural and petrographic analysis, he is developing an integrated thermal, baric, and kinematic record of orogenic evolution, building from the thin section through regional scales. An important component of this work is collaborative research to establish the absolute timing of deformation and metamorphism through in situ dating of monazite using the electron microprobe.Richard Busch, Ph.D - Professor
Courses Taught: Historical Geology, Introduction to Paleontology, Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, Science Education Methods for Elementary Teachers
Dr. Busch's scholarly work is integrated into all of the classes that he teachers. His geologic research focuses on methods and applications of event stratigraphy for understanding detailed spatial-temporal relationships in the geological record. He and his geology students are currently studying the growth, biostratigraphy, and new species of trilobites from Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian formations of the Appalachian Basin. They also study the event stratigraphy of Ordovician and Devonian formations (including the Marcellus Shale). This includes use of a Handheld X-ray Fluorescence (HHXRF) analyzer to correlate elemental chemistry with mineralogy and rock properties and use trace metals (e.g. V, Cr, Ni, and Mo) as proxies for total organic carbon (TOC) in mudrocks. Dr. Busch works with his science-education students and area schools to develop inquiry-oriented, standards-based pedagogical strategies and curriculum materials for the Pre-K and elementary grades. He is also Editor of AGI/NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology (the most widely-adopted introductory-geology lab manual in North America, now in its 9th edition), which is produced under the auspices of the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) and National Association of Geology Teachers (NAGT) and published by Pearson/Prentice Hall.Marc Gagné, Ph.D - Professor
Courses Taught: Galaxies and Cosmology, Introduction to Astronomy, Intermediate Astronomy, History of Astronomy, Student Teacher Supervision
Dr. Gagné and his students study young stars and star formation, primarily through their x-ray and infrared emission. Students in his research group analyze data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the XMM-Newton satellite to identify newborn stars in molecular clouds, star clusters, and OB associations. With his collaborators at Swarthmore College, Penn State and the University of Delaware, his research seeks to understand the mechanisms which produce the x-rays seen from the most massive young stars. Dr. Gagné is writing a textbook and lab activity book in support of his course on Galaxies and Cosmology.Cynthia Hall, Ph.D - Associate Professor
Courses Taught: Geochemistry, Humans and the Environment, The Carbon Cycle
Dr. Hall has conducted research on marine nitrogen cycling, specifically examining the rates and pathways of denitrification, a reaction that removes biologically available nitrogen, on the continental shelf and salt marshes of Georgia. Currently, Dr. Hall is studying heavy metal contamination in Philadelphia soils. In particular, the element lead has found to be abundant in Philadelphia soils and because lead is a neurotoxin to humans, the research team is now investigating the source and fate of the lead to determine the rick for public health. The heavy metals will be measured using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer, which can detect trace metals in the ppm range in under 60 seconds. The handheld version allows samples to be analyzed in the field.Martin Helmke, Ph.D - Professor
Courses Taught: Hydrogeology, Fundamentals of Soil, Graduate Seminar, Applied Soil Classification, Introductory Geology, Geology of National Parks
Dr. Helmke is a hydrogeologist with over 20 years experience as an educator and environmental consultant. Before joining West Chester University, he taught at Dickinson College, Iowa State University, Antioch College, and Directed the Geology Field Camp for Iowa State University and University of Nebraska in Shell, Wyoming. He has worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, Versar, HydroLog, Boyden Caverns, and Aquadrill. Graduate and undergraduate students are the foundation of Dr. Helmke’s research program. Dr. Helmke employs service-learning in most of his upper-level courses by encouraging his students to apply their geologic skills to assist the community with real-world, geologic issues and projects. He also serves the community alongside his students as a member of the Chester County Hazardous Materials Team, the Pennsylvania Company 2 Natural-Disaster Response Team, the Fame Fire Company, and the WCU QRS Medical Service.Victoria Baeder Helmke - Instructor
Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Historical Geology, Introduction to Paleontology
Professor Helmke enjoys teaching Introductory Geology at West Chester Univeristy. She previously taught geology courses at SUNY Geneseo, University of Iowa, and George Mason University. Past research has included radiolarians and depositional environments of chert in Zimapan Mexico, and extinction and community change of Montastraea corals in Puerto Rico across the Oligocene Miocene boundary. She was also a research paleontologist and field guide at The Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming.Joby Hilliker, Ph.D - Associate Professor, Department Chair
Courses Taught: Introduction to Meteorology, Advanced Meteorology, Introduction to Our Atmosphere
While studying meteorology at Penn State, Dr. Hilliker was a part-time television meteorologist for "Weather World", a PBS daily weather program. Joby also worked as a weather forecaster at Accu-Weather, a writer for the weather page presented in The New York Times, and taught an introductory meteorology course at his alma mater. In 2003-2004, Joby moved to Cincinnati, OH, where he worked at Cinergy Corp., a Mid-West utility company, where he developed statistical algorithms, constructed short-term energy products, and communicated weather forecasts with energy traders. Dr. Hilliker has written several research articles relating to statistical weather forecasting. His Master's and Ph.D. work focused on constructing prototype forecast systems for use in the aviation industry. One such system outputted short-term probabilistic forecasts for fog dissipation at the San Francisco Airport, while a second system aided air-traffic controllers in short-term decision-making during thunderstorm events.
BS Binghamton University
Dr. Jacobson was a Professor of Geology at Iowa State University for 35 years. He retired in 2015 and moved to southeast Pennsylvania for family reasons. Through his position as Honorary Professor at West Chester University, he is continuing his research, which focuses on the tectonic evolution of western North America. Much of his work deals with the Pelona-Orocopia-Rand Schists of southern California and southwestern Arizona. These rocks are viewed as correlatives of the Franciscan subduction complex that were thrust beneath North American continental crust during low-angle subduction related to the Laramide orogeny. As such, they provide one of the best areas in the world to investigate processes within the deep levels of a zone of subduction erosion. Dr. Jacobson's studies of the Pelona and related Schists involve mapping, field-based structural analysis, petrography, Ar/Ar thermochronology, and U-Pb dating of zircon. Other research topics include understanding the evolution of the forearc basin in southern California during underplating of the Pelona and related schists, constraining the history of middle Cenozoic extensional faulting and late Cenozoic strike-slip faulting in southern California, using trace elements in zircon as a provenance indicator, and testing the Mojave-Sonora megashear concept in Sonora, Mexico.
Yong Hoon Kim, Ph.D - Assistant Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 217
Phone: (610) 436-2203
Courses Taught: Our Coastal Oceans, Introduction to Oceanography
Dr. Kim’s major research is focused on understanding how natural and anthropogenic environmental factors influence the functioning of our coastal, embayment, estuarine, and ocean systems. He has been trying to answer such research questions via investigating physical aspects of the coastal and ocean environments, in particular emphasizing environmental fluid dynamics, coastal and estuarine circulation, hydrodynamics and material transport dynamics. His research methodology includes combined approaches of observational (both shipborne and mooring) data analysis, remote sensed data analysis (e.g., machine learning system development), and numerical simulation packages to investigate physical, biological and geological processes in coastal and ocean systems. Before joining West Chester University, he was a senior scientist at Applied Science Associates (RPS ASA) specializing in monitoring and modeling of oil spill, monitoring and modeling of thermal discharge, coastal processes, particle transport dynamics and the development and application of numerical modeling. He was also involved in Natural Resource Damage Assessment project of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Incident, focusing on oil spill fate modeling as well as field monitoring program. He earned BS and MS in Oceanography from Seoul National University, and PhD in Earth and Ocean Sciences from University of South Carolina.
Timothy Lutz, Ph.D - Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 231
Phone: (610) 436-3498
Courses Taught: Humans and the Environment, Geometrics, Environmental Geology
Dr. Lutz says, "My specialty is being a generalist." As an undergraduate he designed and completed a major that combined geology, physics, history, and archaeology. As a graduate student he developed interests in models and statistics in geoscience. Throughout his 30-year career those broad interests led to published collaborative work on the ages of rocks, the movement and chemical evolution of molten rock in earth’s crust, the global pattern of earth’s tectonic plate boundaries, the pattern of reversals of earth’s magnetic field, the stability of supply of rare resources, patterns in fossil ammonite shells, the cooling history of rocks in over-thrusts, the chemistry of the mineral tourmaline, the role of mill dams in the evolution of streams, the formation of high-grade metamorphic rocks, and the locations of volcanoes and sinkholes in relation to fractures in earth’s crust. Most recently Dr. Lutz is studying topics that involve geoscience education, public policy, and sustainability, including teaching about flood risk, climate change, and using a values framework to develop thoughtful attitudes about citizenship and stewardship. President Weisenstein appointed Dr. Lutz West Chester University’s first sustainability coordinator in 2010. Dr. Lutz helped guide the University’s adoption of the College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and a University-wide assessment of sustainability.
James (Sandy) Maxwell - Instructor
Office: Merion Science Center 232
Phone: (610) 436-2240
Courses Taught: Science Methods for Grades PK-4, Student Teaching Supervision
Sandy Maxwell’s career has been rooted as an elementary teacher with his start at West Chester State College. His supervisor when he was student teaching was Ruby Jones whose name graces our WCU building. As a classroom teacher, he spent thirty years teaching third through fifth grades and four years teaching gifted students, including one year teaching gifted science classes for ten elementary schools. As an elementary teacher he has worked to integrate learning, promoting critical thinking and inquiry while helping students to make connections across disciplines. Through his constructivist approach to learning, he has specialized in designing unique science opportunities for PK-4 learners. He co-founded the Outdoor Experience environmental program which has been used as a model for a number of schools. Sandy Maxwell has been involved with a number of science initiatives involving nonprofit organizations in southeast Pennsylvania. The past twenty years Sandy Maxwell has been an adjunct faculty instructor teaching science methods courses and supporting student teachers. He was recognized by the College of Education as Outstanding Educator of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 1995. He continues to help PK-4 teachers to develop essential skills and understanding of the elementary classroom by utilizing science as a catalyst for the emotional engine for learning. Sandy is also a freelance watercolorist and illustrator.Daria Nikitina, Ph.D - Associate Professor
Courses Taught: Geomorphology, Coastal Geomorphology, Introduction to Oceanography, International Field Studies, Introductory Geology
Dr. Nikitina’s research and teaching interests are related to Geomorphology, Coastal Geology, Holocene climate change and sea level fluctuations. She also leads a study abroad field course focused on the geology and environment of different places of interest. In the past Dr. Nikitina took students to explore the Peruvian Amazon and the Andes and the Russian Arctic. Dr. Nikitina’s background is in the systematic study of landforms and the earth surface processes that create and change them. Her current research interests include recent sea level changes along the Atlantic coast of the USA, Canada and the Russian Arctic. With a group of WCU students and collaborators, Dr. Nikitina studies the impact of rising sea levels and severe storms on the coastal systems of the Delaware Bay and New Jersey. She uses salt marsh sediments to reconstruct a geological record of past hurricane strikes along the coast. In the past she has conducted research on active volcanoes of Kamchatka and Kuril Islands. Dr. Nikitina engages undergraduate students in field research through course projects and internships.
Karen Schwarz, Ph.D - Associate Professor
Planetarium Director and Project ASTRO Director
Office: Merion Science Center 212
Phone: (610) 436-2788
Courses Taught: Other Worlds-Other Stars, Geology of the Solar System, Intermediate Astronomy, History of Astronomy
Dr. Schwarz studies interacting binary stars, specifically classical nova explosions. She uses observations and computer models to determine the elemental abundances produced in these explosions. It is thought that novae may be responsible for some of the isotopic anomalies seen in meteoritic inclusions in our solar system and may also contribute significantly to the abundance of some isotopes of aluminum and sodium seen distributed throughout the galaxy. Dr. Schwarz is very active in informal education and public outreach. She is the Director of the West Chester University Planetarium. The planetarium provides shows to private groups such as school groups, moms clubs, scout troops, and retirement homes. There are also programs open to the general public. Dr. Schwarz is also the director of Project ASTRO WCU - a program designed to improve astronomy education in the K-12 classroom by pairing up teachers with professional and amateur astronomers.
Linda Slack - Department Secretary, Assistant Building Administrator
Office: Merion Science Center 207
Phone: (610) 436-2727
Linda Slack provides Department faculty with administrative support, in addition to assisting the Department Chair, Dr. Martin Helmke, Ph.D., with class scheduling, purchasing, budget maintenance and facilities administration. Students and members of the University community are welcome to connect with Linda as their first point-of-contact with the Department
Ronald Sloto - Honorary Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 227
Phone: (610) 436-2727
Ron is the curator of the West Chester University mineral collection and conducts research on the mineralogy of southeastern Pennsylvania.
As a hydrogeologist, he served with the U.S. Geological Survey for 41 years. Ron's work with the U.S.G.S. included resource appraisals, groundwater and surface-water modeling, water-quality studies, and studies of radionuclides in groundwater. He extensively used borehole geophysics to understand the movement and fate of contaminates at a number of hazardous waste sites and military facilities in southeastern Pennsylvania. He was a pioneer in the use of rainfall-runoff models to assess the practicality of flood-control structures, and he developed one of the first computer models of groundwater flow in consolidated rocks. The HYSEP hydrograph-separation computer program he developed is in worldwide use. Ron conducted pre-shale gas drilling water-quality studies in areas underlain by the Marcellus Shale, including major studies in Sullivan and Wayne Counties. His recent studies also include the use of inexpensive turbidity sondes to develop accurate suspended sediment loads for stream systems. His studies have been published in over 80 reports and journal articles. Awards Ron has received include the U.S. Geological Superior Service Award, West Chester University's Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Chester County Water Resources Authority's Watershed Stewardship Award, and the Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin Samuel S. Baxter Memorial Award.
Arthur Smith, Ed.D - Associate Professor
Office: Merion Science Center 234
Phone: (610) 436-3499
Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Science Education
Dr. Smith was Pennsylvania's 1975 Teacher of the Year, the 1983 recipient of the National Science Foundation's Outstanding Educator in Science and Mathematics Award for Pennsylvania, and the 1992 recipient of the University of Pennsylvania's Alumni of the Year Award in education, Dr. Smith teaches classes in geology and science education. Dr. Smith is also the recipient and consultant on Ben Franklin partnership research grants.LeeAnn Srogi, Ph.D - Professor
Courses Taught: Introductory Geology, Mineralogy, Investigating Earth Materials, and Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
Dr. LeeAnn Srogi grew up in suburban Detroit, and her earliest memories include picking out interesting stones and fossils – now she teaches the "minerals and rocks" classes in the department. She came east for college and received her B.S. in Geology from Yale University (1977) and Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Pennsylvania (1988), where her Ph.D. dissertation was on the igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Wilmington Complex, Delaware, with Dr. Mary Emma Wagner. She taught at Penn, Smith College, and Ohio Wesleyan University before joining the WCU faculty in 1991. She is always interested in stimulating new ways of teaching about minerals and rocks: beyond "rock-in-a-box!" Her current research collaborations with faculty and students include the geology and tectonics of the Morgantown Sheet; the metamorphic and tectonic history of the Wissahickon Formation; and how values, emotions, and attitudes shape student learning. She has published articles in the Geological Society of America Bulletin, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, American Journal of Science, the Journal of Geoscience Education, as well as field guides and papers in special volumes on Appalachian magmatism and tectonics. Her non-rock interests include music (many kinds but especially classical and jazz), reading, cooking, films, nature hikes, and gardening with native plants to provide habitat for birds and insects.Jamie Vann - Instructor
Courses Taught: The Carbon Cycle