Pat Harris, PhD
Office: LDB 312
There are two events that occurred in my early childhood that set me on the career path I chose. At the age of four, I found an arrowhead after digging in a ditch in our front yard, that caused me to start looking at the ground where I discovered many fascinating rocks and fossils. Secondly, my family went on vacation to Wyoming when I was five. When I saw the Tetons, I asked my parents how the mountains formed? They responded, “We do not know, but a geologist would know”. At that point, I decided I wanted to be a geologist.
My fascination with geology has grown in the years since. My formal education (BS and MS, University of Arkansas) involved field work with mixed siliciclastic-carbonate rocks which led to a job in the oil and gas industry. During my time in the oil industry, I developed an interest in sediment diagenesis. I returned to school (PhD, Texas A&M) where I studied diagenesis of the Delaware Mountain Group, which led to my interest in clay mineralogy.
My knowledge of clay mineralogy led to research investigating how changes in soil mineralogy affect chemical reactions of quicklime and cement in Texas soils. Vertisols are soils that exhibit high shrinking and swelling which causes billions of dollars in damage to buildings, utilities, and roads. Quicklime changes the clay mineral structure, which may greatly reduce the shrinking and swelling of the soil. However, some constituents in the soil may react adversely with the chemical stabilizers and cause increased swelling. Much of my research has focused on mitigating these adverse reactions.
Additionally, I have evaluated the chemical weathering of salt dome cap rock in northeast Texas. These rocks may have a unique mineralogy that generates exciting weathering products which precludes them from use as road aggregate.
More recently, I have been looking at the origin of rare earth minerals (Bastnaesite and synchesite) in a hydrothermal deposit from Arkansas. That work led to evaluation of bauxite deposits in central Arkansas for REE’s. The bauxite is a weathering product of nepheline syenite: a rock known to be enriched in REE’s.
As a result of the interdisciplinary nature of my research, I have collaborated with soil scientists, chemists, geochemists, geophysicists, geologists, and engineers over the last several years.