Dr Natasha Stephen
Profiles

Dr Natasha Stephen

Director of Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC)

Faculty of Science and Engineering

Biography

Biography

Natasha Stephen is Director of Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC), a flagship £5 million analytical facility in the heart of the University of Plymouth's main city centre campus, housing SEMs, TEM and FIB-SEM, along with full specimen-preparation and post-processing facilities. She is also Project Director for the Plymouth Materials Characterisation Network within PEMC; a £1.74 million EU-funded research project that links academics with industry within the South-West of England. 

Natasha is also a lecturer in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, within which she teaches on several undergraduate and graduate courses, in addition to supervision of MGeol, ResM and PhD students. Her research focuses on the use of non-destructive analytical techniques to investigate meteorites; rocks that originate on the surface of other extra-terrestrial bodies, including the Moon, Mars and asteroids, and linking these up to spacecraft data (i.e. rovers and satellites). Natasha is also working with colleagues at ESA and the Australian Government on 'in-situ resource utilisation' (ISRU) for space exploration, and the suitability of astro-materials and synthetic analogues for 3D printing extra-terrestrial habitats for humans on the Moon, and beyond...


Qualifications

Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP): University of Plymouth (2015)

PhD in Planetary Geology: Imperial College London and Natural History Museum (2015)

MSci Geosciences: Royal Holloway, University of London (2009)


Professional membership


Natasha is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Microscopical Society and the Higher Education Academy. She is a member of the Meteoritical Society, Electron Microscopy UK, and the UK Planetary Forum. 

Roles on external bodies

Natasha is a committee member on the following external bodies;

Key publications

Knights A, Norton M, Lemasson A & Stephen N (2020) 'Ocean acidification mitigates the negative effects of increased sea temperatures on the biomineralisation and crystalline ultrastructure of Mytilus' Frontiers in Marine Science , DOI Open access
Giles S, Jackson C & Stephen N (2020) 'Barriers to fieldwork in undergraduate geoscience degrees' Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 1, (2) 77-78 , DOI Open access
View all publications
Teaching

Teaching

Teaching interests


General Teaching Responsibilities:
  • GEOL 1001 - The Dynamic Earth
    • Joint with PGG 1001 - Physical Geography and Geology Interactions
  • GEOL 2003 - Geospatial Techinques
  • GEOL 2007 - Landscape Evolution
  • GEOL 3007 - Igneous and Volcanic Processes
  • GEOL 3008 - Advanced Geological Fieldwork (Almeria, Spain)
  • GEOL 3009 - Earth Science Professional Case Studies
  • CHM 3006 -  Advanced Physical & Analytical Chemistry
  • GEOL 5001 - Geoscience Frontiers: Research and Communication
  • GEOL 5003 - Advanced Analytical Skills
  • GEOL 5004 - MGeol Research Project

Research

Research

Research interests

Natasha's research focuses on the use of meteorites, rocks naturally delivered to Earth from Mars, the Moon and asteroids, to study the geology of extra-terrestrial bodies throughout the Solar System and links these up to the space missions studying these bodies from afar. These astromaterials are a finite resource; scientists can never be quite sure when the next meteorite will strike therefore it is important that research using meteoritic samples preserves them for future study. As such, Natasha employs a range of non-destructive analytical techniques within the University’s Electron Microscopy Centre on campus to look inside the rocks using X-rays to determine their composition and crystal structure, as well as infra-red spectroscopy to help link these observations to satellite and rover missions throughout the Solar System.
 
Whilst the search for life on Mars is one of the key driving forces behind Martian rover exploration (e.g. Curiosity, Mars Science Laboratory), Natasha’s research instead focuses on the geological evolution of Mars, alongside other volcanic regions in the Solar System, in order to determine their histories and relevance to Earth’s future.


Research degrees awarded to supervised students


MGeol Students:
  • Jennifer Mitchell: Monomict Eucrites: a comparative petrology from scanning electron microscopy
  • Andrew Whyte: The analysis of morphology & geochemistry of LL Chondrites, and their comparison to Asteroid Itokawa
  • Philip Hallam: Remote investigations of Mars; analysis of recently imaged craters
  • James Roberts: GIS analysis of Mars 2020 candidate landing sites using openly available data
  • Catherine Woolford: Using meteorites as a ground-truth for geological activity on Vesta; a spectroscopic study
  • Luke Silezin: Geochemical characterisation of basaltic volcanism in the Solar System
  • Jake Graves: Investigating the volcanic history of Mars; can the Shergottite meteorites all originate from just one impact crater?
  • Sean Batter: Will the new Mars rovers (Mars 2020 & ExoMars) help determine potential source regions for the Martian meteorites
  • Lorelei Robertson: Mineralogic™ Automated Mineralogy; developing a system for maximum resource recovery
  • Callum Mullet-Nice: Comparing the nature of clasts in Martian meteorite NWA 11220 to NWA 7034. Implications for source regions on the Martian surface
  • Megan Hammett: A petrological and geochemical Study of LL chondrites,and their comparison to asteroid 25143 Itokawa
  • Rebecca Garnett: Classifying meteorite samples from the Nullarbor Plain and assessing their diversity

MChem Students:
  • Kieran Tyrrell: Chemical homogeneity at the Mt Etna volcano; a geochemical approach to chronostratigraphic analysis

MRes Students: 
  • Matthew Norton (School of Marine and Biological Sciences); Are the effects of ocean acidification on shell growth and ultrastructure of Mytilus sp. affected by fluctuations in pH and elevation in temperature?

Grants & contracts


Research grants:
  • Infrared Investigations of Lunar and Martian Meteorites, ANSTO Australian Synchrotron 
  • Value of award: £104, 632
  • Awarded October 2019

  • Thermal Properties of Martian Meteorites and Planetary Analogue Materials, ANSTO Australian Synchrotron & European Space Agency (ESA)
  • Value of award: £52,316
  • Awarded October 2019

  • Plymouth Materials Characterisation Project (PMCP), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)    
    • Value of award: £1,714,295 
    • Awarded July 2017

Outreach and education grants:

  • BioChemical Society; development of EM outreach activities to tackle KS4 and A level visits to the EM Centre
    • Value of award: £1,000 
    • Awarded October 2016
  • Royal Astronomical Society; development of a planetary science workshop as part of Girls into Geoscience at the University of Plymouth
    • Value of award: £450 
    • Awarded July 2016

Publications

Publications

Key publications

Knights A, Norton M, Lemasson A & Stephen N (2020) 'Ocean acidification mitigates the negative effects of increased sea temperatures on the biomineralisation and crystalline ultrastructure of Mytilus' Frontiers in Marine Science , DOI Open access
Giles S, Jackson C & Stephen N (2020) 'Barriers to fieldwork in undergraduate geoscience degrees' Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 1, (2) 77-78 , DOI Open access

Key publications are highlighted

Journals
Articles
Knights A, Norton M, Lemasson A & Stephen N (2020) 'Ocean acidification mitigates the negative effects of increased sea temperatures on the biomineralisation and crystalline ultrastructure of Mytilus' Frontiers in Marine Science , DOI Open access
Tomkins AG, Alkemade SL, Nutku SE, Stephen NR, Finch MA & Jeon H (2020) 'A small S-MIF signal in Martian regolith pyrite: Implications for the atmosphere' Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Publisher Site , DOI Open access
Giles S, Jackson C & Stephen N (2020) 'Barriers to fieldwork in undergraduate geoscience degrees' Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 1, (2) 77-78 , DOI Open access
Volkenandt T, Pérez-Willard F, Bauer F, Stephen N, Goulden J, Trimby P & Larsen K (2019) 'A Fast and Accurate Workflow for Analytic 3D FIB-SEM Tomography' Microscopy and Microanalysis 25, (S2) 918-919 , DOI Open access
MacArthur JL, Bridges JC, Hicks LJ, Burgess R, Joy KH, Branney MJ, Hansford GM, Baker SH, Schwenzer SP & Gurman SJ (2018) 'Mineralogical constraints on the thermal history of martian regolith breccia Northwest Africa 8114' Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 246, 267-298 , DOI Open access
King AJ, Schofield PF, Stephen NR, Frogley MD, Cinque G & Russell SS (2018) 'Investigating the history of volatiles in the solar system using synchrotron infrared micro-spectroscopy' Infrared Physics and Technology 94, 244-249 , DOI Open access
Berry AJ, Schofield PF, Kravtsova AN, Miller LA, Stephen NR, Walker AM, Soldatov AV, Ireland TR, Geraki K & Mosselmans JFW (2017) 'The limitations of hibonite as a single-mineral oxybarometer for early solar system processes' Chemical Geology 466, 32-40 , DOI Open access
Michalski JR, Cuadros J, Bishop JL, Darby Dyar M, Dekov V & Fiore S (2015) 'Constraints on the crystal-chemistry of Fe/Mg-rich smectitic clays on Mars and links to global alteration trends' Earth and Planetary Science Letters 427, 215-225 , DOI
Stephen NR, Genge M & Russell S (2012) 'The Tissint Meteorite: A Pristine and Unique Sample of the Martian Sub-Surface' Meteoritics and Planetary Science Supplement 75, 5234-5234
Stephen NR, Benedix GK & Bland PA (2011) 'Extracting Pyroxene Mineral Spectra from Martian Meteorites' Meteoritics and Planetary Science Supplement 74, 5064-5064
Stephen NR, Benedix GK, Bland PA, Hamilton VE, Mariani E & Prior DJ (2010) 'Preferred Orientation Relationships of Olivine and Pyroxene in the Shergottite Martian Meteorites' Meteoritics and Planetary Science Supplement 73, 5008-5008
Conference Papers
Staddon LG, Darling JR, Stephen NR, Dunlop J & Tait KT (2020) 'Baddeleyite Microstructures in Variably Shocked Martian Meteorites: An Opportunity to Link Shock Barometry and Robust Geochronology' 2302-2302
Brand HEA, Stephen NR & Martin DJP (2020) 'Bulk and Thermal Properties of Planetary Analogue Simulants and Martian Meteorites' 1628-1628
Stephen NR, Brand HE & Tomkins A (2019) 'METEORITES OF THE NULLARBOR PLAIN; RECENT RECOVERY & CLASSIFICATION EFFORTS' Open access
Brand HEA, Langendam AD, Whitworth AJ, Alkemade SL, Mitchell JT, Davis A, Stephen NR & Tomkins AG (2019) 'Meteorites on the Nullarbor Plain, Insights from Synchrotron Powder Diffraction' 1361-1361
Stephen NR (2018) 'Linking Martian Breccias Northwest Africa 11220 and Northwest Africa 7034 to the Martian Meteorite Family; Revisiting the Martian Nomenclature' 1460-1460
Mitchell JT & Stephen NR (2016) 'Revisiting NWA 3141, 8266 and 8594; Two Eucrites and a Howardite?' 6224-6224
Mitchell JT & Stephen NR (2016) 'REVISITING NWA 3141, 8266, AND 8594: TWO EUCRITES AND A HOWARDITE?' A464-A464 Open access
Stephen NR (2016) 'Spatially Resolved Mid-IR Spectra from Meteorites; Linking Composition, Crystallographic Orientation and Spectra on the Micro-Scale' 6223-6223
Stephen NR & Dijkstra AH (2015) 'Constraining Pigeonite on Mars; Further Developments in Resolving Zoned Pyroxenes Within the Martian Meteorites' 5394-5394
Michalski JR, Cuadros J, Dekov VM, Dyar MD, Bishop JL & Stephen N (2014) 'Constraints on the Crystal Chemistry of Fe/Mg-Rich Smectitic Clays on Mars and Links to Global Alteration Trends' P34A-01
Stephen NR, Schofield PF & Berry AJ (2014) 'MID-IR MAPPING OF MARTIAN METEORITES WITH 8 MICRON SPATIAL RESOLUTION' A381-A381
Stephen NR, Schofield PF & Berry AJ (2014) 'Mid-IR Mapping of Martian Meteorites with 8 Micron Spatial Resolution' 5185-5185
Stephen NR & Ross AJ (2014) 'Examining the Petrology of “Martian” Meteorite NWA 7034; A Polymict Fragmental Breccia' 2924-2924
Stephen NR, Schofield PF, Berry AJ & Donaldson P (2014) 'Mid-IR Mapping of Martian Meteorites; Spatially Resolved Mineral Spectra from a Synchrotron Source' 1378-1378
Stephen NR, Schofield PF & Berry AJ (2013) 'Infrared mapping of silicate minerals in Martian meteorites using a synchrotron light source' EPSC2013-297
Stephen NR, Genge MJ, Russell SS & Schofield PF (2013) 'Turning Tissint Inside Out; Searching for its Launch Pair(s) from Mars' 2131-2131
Palasse L, Goran D, Stephen NR, Schwager T, Berlin J & Salge T (2012) 'ADVANCES IN EBSD TECHNOLOGY: A POWERFUL METHOD FOR THE ANALYSIS OF IMPACTITES AND METEORITES' A308-A308
Stephen NR, Genge M & Russell S (2012) 'THE TISSINT METEORITE: A PRISTINE AND UNIQUE SAMPLE OF THE MARTIAN SUB-SURFACE?' A359-A359
Stephen NR, Benedix GK & Genge M (2012) 'The Effect of Composition and Zoning on Infra-Red Spectra of the Martian Silicate Minerals' 2199-2199
Stephen N, Benedix GK, Bland P, Berlin J, Salge T & Goran D (2011) 'EBSD analysis of the Shergottite Meteorites: New developments within the technique and their implication on what we know about the preferred orientation of Martian minerals' P31B-1709
Stephen NR, Benedix GK & Bland PA (2011) 'EXTRACTING PYROXENE MINERAL SPECTRA FROM MARTIAN METEORITES' A223-A223
Stephen N, Benedix GK, Bland P & Hamilton VE (2010) 'Martian Pyroxenes in the Shergottite Meteorites; Zagami, SAU005, DAG476 and EETA79001' P51B-1423
Stephen NR, Benedix GK, Bland PA, Hamilton VE, Mariani E & Prior DJ (2010) 'PREFERRED ORIENTATION RELATIONSHIPS OF OLIVINE AND PYROXENE IN THE SHERGOTTITE MARTIAN METERORITES' A196-A196
Stephen NR, Benedix GK, Bland PA, Howard KT & Hamilton VE (2010) 'Modal Mineralogy of the Martian Meteorite Zagami' 2367-2367
Posters
Stephen NR Stephen NR 'Spatially resolved mid-IR spectra from Meteorites; Linking composition, crystallographic Orientation & Spectra on the micro-scale' Open access
Personal

Personal

Conferences organised

EBSD 2018: 9-11 April 2018
  • Annual electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) meeting hosted by the Royal Microscopical Society (RMS).
  • Two-day meeting, preceded by a practical workshop.

Other academic activities

Public engagement and outreach:

2018: 
  • 'Diversity in Space Careers' (DISC) 2018 panel member. Event organised by SpaceCareers.co.uk and UKSEDS, and hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society, London      
  • ITV News, West Country, interviewed as an expert in space and planetary sciences, discussing the announcement of UK Government funding for horizontal and vertical space launches in Scotland and Cornwall
  • 'Girls into Geoscience' workshop on Planetary Geology, introducing meteorite specimens in a classroom environment, hosted by the University of Plymouth
  • 'Celebrating Diversity in Science; Hidden Figures' film screening as part of British Science Week 2018, sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society
  • 'International Women's Day 2018' invited speaker for celebration event at the Royal Astronomical Society, London
  • BBC News, London Studies, interviewed as an expert in space and planetary sciences, discussing the announcement of new UK Government funding to upgrade Goonhilly Earth Station's largest dish
2017: 
  • European Commission (EC), promotional video generated by the European Union to advertise the successful EU-funded projects across the UK to young adults throughout Europe
  • BBC Breakfast, Goonhilly Earth Station, Cornwall; interviewed as an expert in Planetary Science, surrounding the UK Government announcement of a Space Policy and UK Space Ports

2016: 
  • BBC Radio Devon, expert interview discussing the recent discovery of water on Mars, March 2016
2015:
  • First Geologist of the Moon: Geological Society of London and Royal Astronomical Society (co-convener and scientific adviser for a re-imagining of the original Geological Society address from Dr Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt on his expedition to the Lunar surface as part of Apollo 17)
  • Space, Planets and Meteorites: Diamond Light Source (Public open-house event at the Harwell Science and Innovation campus in Oxfordshire, UK seeing >2000 visitors over the course of the day)
  • Science in its purest form: Diamond Light Source (Interviewed by request from Diamond Light Source for a promotional video celebrating the science conducted at Diamond Light Source,the UK Synchrotron)  
  • 50 years of Martian Exploration’, Plymouth Astronomical Society (Invited talk by local astronomical society to celebrate 50 years of successful Martian exploration)
  • Children’s University: Plymouth (invited talk ‘Exploring the Solar System’ as part of a nationally recognised programme encouraging school children to engage in extra-curricular activities in a variety of subjects)
  • Stargazing Live: Diamond Light Source (invited expert speaker for stargazing event at Diamond Light Source, the UK Synchrotron aimed at engaging the public with space science)

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